Franke, Schultz & Mullen, PC | Circuit Court of St. Louis City, Missouri enters Summary Judgment in favor of insurer in $34.5 million equitable garnishment and bad faith case
Kansas City - Springfield - St. Louis - Overland Park
News & Publications

Circuit Court of St. Louis City, Missouri enters Summary Judgment in favor of insurer in $34.5 million equitable garnishment and bad faith case

10/10/2017
Plaintiffs filed an equitable garnishment claim against United Fire & Casualty Company after obtaining a $34.5 million verdict in the Circuit Court of Adair County, Missouri arising out of a motor vehicle accident.  The plaintiffs, members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, alleged they were riding on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 63 north of La Plata, Missouri, when a 2000 Oldsmobile Alero driven by Nathan Worstell struck Sanborn, who then crashed into Lopez. Sanborn suffered a severed spinal cord and is permanently paraplegic.  Plaintiffs filed a personal injury suit against Nathan Worstell, and a judgment was entered against Nathan Worstell for $34,595,301, which was the sixth largest plaintiff’s judgment in Missouri in 2015.
 
Plaintiffs’ equitable garnishment suit against United Fire & Casualty Company sought coverage for Mr. Worstell under a personal auto policy issued to Nathan Worstell’s parents.  The United Fire & Casualty Company policy listed two automobiles owned by Nathan Worstell’s parents, who were listed as the named insureds, but did not list the vehicle Nathan Worstell was driving at the time of the accident.  Nathan Worstell filed a cross claim against United Fire & Casualty Company asserting claims for bad faith failure to settle and defend and seeking as damages the entire amount of the underlying judgment, punitive damages, interests, and costs. 
 
United Fire & Casualty Company has and continues to maintain that there was no coverage for plaintiffs’ claims under the policy issued to Nathan Worstell’s parents due to two express exclusions: first, an exclusion for any vehicles, other than “your covered auto,” which are owned by or furnished/available for the regular use of the named insured or her/his resident spouse; and second, an exclusion for any vehicles, other than “your covered auto,” owned by or furnished/available for the regular use of any “family member.”  The 2000 Oldsmobile Alero was owned by Nathan Worstell’s parents but not listed in the policy issued to them and was furnished/available for Nathan Worstell’s regular use.  Plaintiffs and Nathan Worstell argued that these exclusions are invalid in part under the Missouri Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law.  The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment regarding coverage under the policy issued to Nathan Worstell’s parents.
 
The Circuit Court of St. Louis City granted summary judgment in favor of United Fire & Casualty Company on plaintiffs’ equitable garnishment claim and Nathan Worstell’s cross claim for bad faith.  The Court held that United Fire & Casualty Company has and had no obligation to provide liability coverage or a defense for the claims asserted by plaintiffs against Nathan Worstell by reason of the automobile accident, and that United Fire & Casualty Company has and had no obligation to pay plaintiffs or Nathan Worstell any sum by reason of the judgment entered by the Circuit Court of the Adair County. 
 
Matthew Clifford completed the summary judgment briefing and argued the case to the Circuit Court of St. Louis City on behalf of United Fire & Casualty Company.  The case was recently named the top defense verdict in Missouri for 2017.