Case Law Summary - 2015: July – September
Insurance Contract Disputes
Darno v. Westfield Ins. Co., 2015-Ohio-2619.
- The insured, Mr. Darno, was struck while running from his stalled vehicle on the side of the road . He brought an action against the automobile insurer to recover uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits under his father’s policy. The insurance company asserted that Mr. Darno was excluded from coverage because, under the terms of the policy, he was "occupying" the vehicle at the time of the accident. The father’s insurance policy explicitly excludes coverage for bodily injuries sustained by "[a]n individual Named Insured while 'occupying' or when struck by any vehicle owned by that Named Insured that is not a covered 'auto' for Uninsured Motorists Coverage and/or Underinsured Motor Coverage[.]" It was undisputed that the insurance policy did not cover Mr. Darno’s vehicle.
- The Summit County Court of Common Pleas granted insurer’s summary judgment. The Ninth District Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.
- The court held that Mr. Darno was not "occupying" his stalled vehicle when the oncoming vehicle struck him while running two or three feet from the stalled vehicle after attempting to push it off the road, and, thus the insured was entitled to uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits under his father's policy which barred coverage for an insured occupying vehicle owned by the insured, but not covered by the policy. The term "occupying" was ambiguous, requiring strict construction against the insurer.
Sivit v. Village Green of Beachwood, L.P., 143 OhioSt.3d 168, 2015-Ohio-1193.
- Several fires broke out at different buildings of the Village Green Apartments. An experienced fire investigator conducted an investigation of the fires and concluded that construction defects of "faulty electrical wiring contaminated by water leaks" within the buildings caused the fires. Following the fires, several tenants filed suit against Village Green claiming the buildings had been negligently constructed. After a jury trial, Village Green was found liable and the jury awarded compensatory damages of $582,146, punitive damages of $2,000,000, and attorney fees of $1,040,000. The Eighth District Court of Appeals affirmed.
- Village Green appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court alleging, among other things, that the punitive damages awarded were excessive. The Ohio Supreme Court granted Village Green’s discretionary appeal. The Court affirmed the court of appeals with respect to all issues except the award of punitive damages. The Court stated that the punitive damages awarded must be reduced because they exceeded the limit prescribed by R.C. 2315.21(D)(2)(a).
Employer Intentional Torts
Hoyle v. DTJ Ents., Inc., 143 Ohio St.3d 197, 2015-Ohio-843.
- Appellee, Hoyle, brought this action to recover injuries he sustained when he fell from a ladder-jack scaffold while working as a carpenter on a construction project for his employers, appellees, DTJ Enterprise, Inc. and Cavanaugh Building Corporation. For worker safety, each ladder-jack should be secured using a system of bolts and pins, which appellee Hoyle states was being withheld by the job superintendent since they took too long to use. Hoyle sued DTJ and Cavanaugh alleging claims of employer intentional tort. Appellant, the Cincinnati Insurance Company (CIC), which insured DTJ and Cavanaugh under a commercial general liability policy, intervened and filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment that it has no obligation to indemnify DTJ and Cavanaugh for Hoyle’s injuries. The only issue then is whether CIC has a duty to indemnify DTJ and Cavanaugh should Hoyle prevail on his employer intentional tort claims.
- The Court concluded that because liability for an employer intentional tort under R.C. 2745.01 requires a finding that the employer acted with the intention to injure an employee, an insurance provision that excludes from coverage liability for an insured’s act committed with the deliberate intent to injure an employee precludes coverage for employer intentional torts. As a result, no facts could give rise to a duty upon CIC to indemnify DTJ or Cavanaugh, even if Hoyle were to prevail on his claims against them.
Sheldon v. Kettering Health Network, 2015-Ohio-3268.
- Appellant’s tort claims against appellee were dismissed as the claims alleged or depended on violations of the federal Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA) because HIPAA does not provide a private right of action.
- However, HIPAA does not preempt an Ohio common-law tort claim recognized in Biddle v. Warren Gen. Hosp., 86 Ohio St.3d 395 (1999), for unauthorized, unprivileged disclosure of confidential medical information that does not rely on HIPAA for a negligence “standard of care.” However, the complaint here was insufficient to allege such a claim against the hospital. Timely remedies to the pleadings and complaint can cure such a defect.
Accidents Motor Vehicle Accidents: Auto, Truck, Bus, Motorcycle Accidents Bicycle/Racing
Claims Premises Liability:
Slip & Fall
and Safety Claims
Death Claims General Negligence
General Civil Litigation Pedestrian
Injuries/Accidents Animal Claims
and Dog Bites
Contract Disputes Appellate
Practice Mediation and