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INSURANCE LAW: Claim Was Stated of Negligence in Advice On Car Insurance Limits

CASE: Byrd v. Ortiz

COURT:  Connecticut Appellate Court

DOC. No.  AC 33470, COURT OPINION BY:  Dupont, J.

DATE:  June, 12, 2012; PAGES 10

As a matter of law, the defendant insurance agent had a duty to explain uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to the plaintiff, to explain the consequences of not having a sufficient amount of such coverage, to recommend the proper amount of coverage based on the plaintiff’s individual circumstances and to attempt to procure that amount of coverage and offer it to the plaintiff.  Helen Byrd sustained injuries in an automobile accident.  She settled her claim against the owners of the other vehicle for the policy limit of $100,000.  Byrd filed a complaint against licensed insurance agent, Wendelynne Ortiz, and Nationwide Insurance Company of America alleging claims of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty arising from Ortiz’s advice to the plaintiff in purchasing automobile insurance coverage.  She alleged that based upon Ortiz’s advise, Byrd purchased a Nationwide automobile insurance policy with uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage of $20,000 per person and 440,000 per accident.  She alleged that the value of the injuries and damages she sustained exceeded $100,000 and, as a result of Ortiz’ negligence in failing to advise her properly or to inquire about the appropriate amount of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, Byrd was without sufficient underinsured motorist coverage to compensate her for her losses.  The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to strike all counts of the revised complaint.  The plaintiff appealed challenging the trial court’s reliance on the 1992 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Harlach v. Metropolitan Property & Liability Insurance Company in striking her negligence claims for failing to include allegations of fraud or inequitable conduct.  The Appellate Court reversed the judgment as to the negligence counts.  In Harlach, the Supreme Court’s discussion of the need for fraud or inequitable conduct was confined to its consideration of whether the equitable principle of reformation was available to negate the plaintiff policy holder’s written request for a lesser amount of uninsured motorist coverage.  Harlach was not applicable here because the plaintiff’s action was not for reformation of an insurance contract but for negligence.  The facts alleged in the negligence counts, if provable, would support caused of action for negligence against the defendants.