Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Raymond v. Taylor

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

October 10, 2017

VONDA RAYMOND, GUARDIAN OF MARK RAYMOND, an incapacitated adult, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
TAMI TAYLOR, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of WILLIAM COLE TAYLOR, deceased, and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries, Plaintiff/Intervenor
v.
LARRY BEDELL, an individual, and BLUEKNIGHT ENERGY PARTNERS, L.P., a foreign corporation, Defendants,
v.
COMPSOURCE OKLAHOMA, Intervenor, and AMERICAN MERCURY INSURANCE COMPANY, Intervenor/Appellee.

         ON CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS, DIVISION III

          Donald E. Smolen, II and Laura L. Hamilton, Smolen, Smolen & Roytman, PLLC, Tulsa, OK, for Appellant.

          James D. Johnson and Randall E. Long, Rhodes, Hieronymus, Jones, Tucker & Gable, P.L.L.C., Tulsa, OK, for Appellee.

          WATT, J.

         ¶0 Appellant, Mark Raymond, brought an action against tort-feasors. Appellee, American Mercury Insurance Company, the uninsured motorist insurance carrier, filed a motion to intervene for subrogation from the tort-feasors of the uninsured motorist payments. Appellant settled with tort-feasors for a confidential amount inclusive of Appellee's disputed subrogation claim. The district court ordered that the UM insurance carrier was entitled to full subrogation under 36 O.S.Supp. 2009, § 3636. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. This Court granted certiorari.

         ¶1 The question presented is whether the uninsured motorist insurance carrier is entitled to subrogation against the under-insured tort-feasor's assets, including excess insurance coverage, in the amount the uninsured motorist insurance carrier had previously paid to the injured party. We answer in the negative.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2 This case originated with a motor vehicle accident on July 6, 2012. William Cole Taylor (Taylor) was driving a vehicle owned and insured by Guy's Seed Company (Guy's Seed); Appellant, Mark Raymond (Raymond), was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Taylor. Both Raymond and Taylor were employees of Guy's Seed. Appellee, American Mercury Insurance Company (Mercury), issued a commercial automobile insurance policy to Guy's Seed which provided uninsured/under-insured motorist (UM) coverage of $1, 000, 000 per accident.

         ¶3 Larry Bedell (Bedell) was an employee of BlueKnight Energy Partners (BlueKnight); BlueKnight carried a $1, 000, 000 primary automobile liability policy and a $40, 000, 000 excess liability policy. Bedell was driving an oil tanker truck, owned by BlueKnight, and attempted to turn in front of the Guy's Seed vehicle causing a collision. The collision caused an immediate explosion, which resulted in Taylor's death and Raymond suffering significant permanent injuries.

         ¶4 Raymond qualified as insured under Mercury's UM coverage [1] and the UM claim was reported to Mercury on July 9, 2012. On July 12, 2012, Raymond filed a petition against Defendants, Bedell and BlueKnight, in Woodward County District Court. On September 4, 2012, Defendants filed their Answer. [2] Meanwhile, Mercury investigated and offered the UM policy limits to Raymond's and Taylor's representatives, paying $500, 000 to each on September 24, 2012. On November 20, 2012, an agreed order of transfer to Woodward County was granted.

         ¶5 On December 3, 2012, Mercury filed a motion to intervene for subrogation from Defendants for the $500, 000 payment made to Raymond from the UM policy. On December 18, 2012, Mercury's motion to intervene was granted. The case was mediated in late August 2013 with BlueKnight, Raymond, and Mercury present.

         ¶6 Raymond disputed Mercury's right to subrogation in this action, but Defendants refused to settle unless the settlement amount was inclusive of Mercury's disputed subrogation claim. An agreement was reached where Raymond settled with Defendants for a confidential amount greater than the primary insurance liability limits but less than the excess policy; [3] Defendants paid Raymond the amount of the settlement minus the $500, 000 claimed by Mercury. The disputed $500, 000 was to be held until there was an agreement or court order as to who was entitled to the funds.

         ¶7 On September 30, 2013, Mercury filed a motion to determine allocation of settlement funds. On August 29, 2014, the District Court granted Mercury's motion, finding that Mercury was entitled to the right of subrogation for the full $500, 000. On April 6, 2015, the District Court dismissed the case, making the order of allocation of settlement funds final and ripe for appeal.

         ¶8 Raymond timely appealed and the matter was assigned to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals (COCA), Division III. Raymond argued that the district court erred in finding Mercury had a valid subrogation interest in the proceeds of Raymond's settlement with Defendants. On September 30, 2016, COCA affirmed the District Court's order. Raymond timely filed a Petition for Certiorari which this Court granted on March 6, 2017.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶9 Statutory interpretation is a question of law and is subject to de novo review. Head v. McCracken, 2004 OK 84, ¶ 4, 102 P.3d 670, 674, Fulsom v. Fulsom, 2003 OK 96, ¶ 2, 81 P.3d 652, 654. We review the determination that Mercury was entitled to subrogation of the $500, 000 paid under the UM policy by de novo standard as the meaning of Title 36, Section 3636 is central to determining Mercury's right to subrogation. De novo review is a "non-deferential, plenary[, ]and independent review of the trial court's legal ruling." Head, 2004 OK 84, ¶ 4, 102 P.3d at 674.

         ANALYSIS

         ¶10 Title 36, Section 3636 of the Oklahoma statutes provides regulations for uninsured motorist insurance coverage and makes it mandatory as an option for all automotive insurance policies. 36 O.S.Supp. 2009, § 3636 (A), (B). [4] For purposes of UM coverage protection, the term "uninsured motor vehicle" also includes insured vehicles where the liability limits are less than the amount of the claim of the person making a claim, otherwise known as under-insured vehicles. 36 O.S.Supp. 2009, § 3636 (C). Any excess or umbrella policy is not included when determining the liability limits of a vehicle under Section 3636(C). GEICO General Ins.Co. v. Northwestern Pacific Indemnity Co., 2005 OK 40, ¶¶ 0, 13, 22, 115 P.3d 856, 857, 859, 860.

         ¶11 Mercury seeks subrogation of the UM funds it paid to Raymond under Title 36, Section 3636(F):

In the event of payment to any person under the coverage required by this section and subject to the terms and conditions of such coverage, the insurer making such payment shall, to the extent thereof, be entitled to the proceeds of any settlement or judgment resulting from the exercise of any rights of recovery of such person against any person or organization legally responsible for the bodily injury for which such payment is made, including the proceeds recoverable from the assets of the insolvent insurer. Provided, however, with respect to payments made by reason of the coverage described in subsection C of this section, the insurer making such payment shall not be entitled to any right of recovery against such tort-feasor in excess of the proceeds recovered from the assets of the insolvent insurer of said tort-feasor. Provided further, that any payment made by the insured tort-feasor shall not reduce or be a credit against the total liability limits as provided in the insured's own uninsured motorist coverage . Provided further, that if a tentative agreement to settle for liability limits has been reached with an insured tort-feasor, written notice shall be given by certified mail to the uninsured motorist coverage insurer by its insured.
Such written notice shall include:
1. Written documentation of pecuniary losses incurred, including copies of all medical bills; and
2. Written authorization or a court order to obtain reports from all employers and medical providers. Within sixty (60) days of receipt of this written notice, the uninsured motorist coverage insurer may substitute its payment to the insured for the tentative settlement amount. The uninsured motorist coverage insurer shall then be entitled to the insured's right of recovery to the extent of such payment and any settlement under the uninsured motorist coverage. If the uninsured motorist coverage insurer fails to pay the insured the amount of the tentative tort settlement within sixty (60) days, the uninsured motorist coverage insurer has no right to the proceeds of any settlement or judgment, as provided herein, for any amount paid under the uninsured motorist coverage.

36 O.S.Supp. 2009, § 3636 (F) (emphasis and underline added). Mercury primarily points to the first sentence of this section as providing the right to subrogation.

         ¶12 When a statute is unambiguous, its language will be applied without further inquiry as to its meaning. Ball v. Multiple Injury Tr. Fund, 2015 OK 64, ¶ 6, 360 P.3d 499, 502. But if a literal construction leads to a conflict with other provisions within a statute, this Court will reconcile the provisions using rules of statutory construction. Id. The primary goal of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and, if possible, give effect to the intention and purpose of the Oklahoma Legislature as expressed by the statutory language. Cattlemen's Steakhouse, Inc. v. Waldenville, 2013 OK 95, ¶ 14, 318 P.3d 1105, 1109. In determining the Legislature's intent, the court looks "to each part of an act, to other statutes upon the same or relative subjects, to the evils and mischiefs to be remedied, and to the natural and absurd consequences of any particular interpretation." Blevins v. W.A. Graham Co., 1919 OK 147, ¶ 8, 182 P. 247, 248. This Court has stated that the intent of UM legislation is to provide the same protection for an insured person who is injured by an uninsured motorist as he or she would have if the uninsured motorist carried liability insurance. Moser v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 1986 OK 78, ¶ 4, 731 P.2d 406, 408, Babcock v. Adkins, 1984 OK 84, ¶ 15, 695 P.2d 1340, 1343. This Court has also stated that the language from the original bill from which Title 36, Section 3636 was codified [5] shows that the legislature intends Section 3636's provisions apply to all primary automotive liability insurance policies, but not to supplemental, excess, or umbrella policies. Moser, 1986 OK 78, ¶¶ 8, 9, 731 P.2d at 409, GEICO, 2005 OK 40, ¶¶ 13, 22, 115 P.3d at 859, 860. [6]

         ¶13 When reviewing a statute for meaning, relevant provisions must be considered together to give full force to each, if possible. Barnes v. Okla. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 2000 OK 55, ¶ 25, 11 P.3d 162, 172. To understand Section 3636(F), we cannot take one sentence or part of a sentence out of context, but must read the provision in its entirety. Id. ¶ 26, 11 P.3d at 173. The first sentence of Section 3636(F) [7] is the general rule that applies to subrogation for UM carriers. The rest of subsection (F) provides exceptions from the first sentence and additional restriction on the subrogation allowed. For example, the third sentence [8] prevents UM carriers from using payments by the tort-feasor as a set-off from the UM coverage limits. And the fourth and fifth sentence [9] enact guidelines that become applicable if the UM carrier is notified of a tentative agreement to settle for the tort-feasor's liability limits.

         ¶14 The second sentence of 3636(F) states:

Provided, however, with respect to payments made by reason of the coverage described in subsection C of this section, the insurer making such payment shall not be entitled to any right of recovery against such tort-feasor in excess of the proceeds recovered ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.