Class Action Lawsuit Accuses Insurance Company of Violating Tennessee Law in Handling of Uninsured Motorist Deductibles

In a Tennessee car accident case, the defendant is usually the driver whose negligence caused the crash. If he or she was on the job at the time, his or her employer may also be named as a defendant based on the principles of vicarious liability. Sometimes, however, the negligent driver cannot be identified. This may happen in a hit-and-run accident, for example. In these cases, the plaintiff’s litigation opponent may be his or her own insurance company, provided that he or she had uninsured motorist insurance. A recent case dealt with the issue of whether an insured motorist insurance company violated Tennessee law in its dealings with own insureds in such cases.

Factual Allegations

In a recent case, the plaintiff filed a putative Tennessee state court class action lawsuit against the defendant insurance company, alleging that the defendant had unlawfully charged customers a deductible in accidents in which uninsured motorists were positively identified and solely at fault. The defendant admitted that this scenario did happen to the plaintiff but denied that there had been a policy or practice regarding charging deductible in uninsured motorist cases. The defendant further alleged that it was justified in denying the plaintiff’s claim because he had failed to accurately report that he was using his car to provide ridesharing services.

After the state court lawsuit had been pending for some time, the state court allowed the plaintiff to amend his complaint to add a request for punitive damages. This amendment increased the damages at issue to the threshold for removal to federal court, and the defendant removed the action to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. At the time of the removal, a motion to compel was pending.

The Court’s Ruling on the Issues

The federal district court granted the defendant’s motion to compel in part and denied it in part. The court denied the defendant’s motion for sanctions against the plaintiff. The court first noted that the state court had issued an oral order in the case, but this order had not been put into writing at the time the case was removed to federal court. Based on the weight of authority in similar cases, the federal court ruled that the state court’s oral ruling was valid and binding on the parties.

With regard to whether the plaintiff had properly responded to the state court’s order, the federal district court granted the defendant’s motion to compel the plaintiff to answer some particular interrogatories which he had refused to answer; the defendant’s motion regarding the plaintiff’s identification of claims mishandled by the defendant was denied on the basis that the plaintiff had complied with the request by producing a spreadsheet that identified the files (as provided in a sample from the defendant) that the plaintiff contended had been handled. Although the defendant sought claim-specific reasons about its alleged mishandling of the putative class members’ uninsured motorist claims, the court was of the opinion that this was unnecessary. Requiring such detailed discussion of hundreds of individual claims would have undermined the benefit of a class action lawsuit, the very purpose of which is to avoid unnecessary litigation of individual claims that could be resolved on a class wide basis.

Contact an East Tennessee Car Accident Lawyer

Many insurance companies refuse to do the right thing until they are made to do so by a court of law. If you need to talk to a knowledgeable car accident lawyer, please phone the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657 and ask for a free consultation. We handle a variety of motor vehicle collision cases, including hit and run accidents, distracted driving accidents, and tractor trailer accidents.

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