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Farmers Insurance Secures Tenth Circuit Victory in Auto Insurance Class Action

David Yohai, John Mastando and CCL Team Convince Court to Uphold Time Limitations Provision Over Statutory Challenge
Weil secured a significant victory for Farmers Insurance Exchange and Mid-Century Insurance Company (“Farmers”) on November 18, 2013, when the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court of Colorado’s decision granting Farmers’ motion to dismiss the claims asserted by Plaintiff Lawrence Countryman, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated (“Countryman”). Countryman challenged a provision contained in Farmers’ automobile insurance policies providing for medical payment (“Med-pay”) benefits for “reasonable and customary expense[s] for necessary medical services furnished within two years from the date of the accident.” Countryman alleged that the two-year time period violated Colorado’s insurance statute, C.R.S. § 10-4-635, and Colorado’s public policy. Weil defended the case based on the statute’s silence as to any required time limit, the legislative history underlying the statute, and clear Colorado case law establishing that an insurer “may impose any terms and conditions consistent with public policy which it may see fit.”

The Court agreed with Farmers that C.R.S. § 10-4-635 is silent as to any required time limitation and that “the legislature could have forbidden [a time limit] expressly if it had chosen to do so.” It found that the statutory minimum of only $5,000 of coverage and “the prioritization of payment to trauma care providers point to allowing time limits sufficient to cover trauma care services and leaving any remaining coverage amount for follow up for medical care.” Agreeing with Farmers’ arguments, the Court held that “[n]othing in the legislative history indicates that Med-pay was intended to provide coverage for indefinite care.” The Court further found that the two-year time period on Med-pay coverage was not inconsistent with any of Colorado’s public policy goals. The case sets forth an important principle that time limitations are acceptable even in the face of statutorily required coverage amounts.

Oral argument was held before the Tenth Circuit on September 25, 2013. David Yohai, Weil’s co-chair of commercial litigation and co-head of its insurance practice, argued on behalf of Farmers and led the team, consisting of partner John Mastando and associates Jodi Barrow and Luna Ngan.

This news appeared in the following outlets (may require registration/subscription):

  • Law360: Farmers Insurance Prevails Over Medical Expenses Suit (November 18, 2013)