United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
E. DOWDELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
plaintiff, Marilyn Ann Phillips, was injured in a motor
vehicle accident on August 27, 2012. The other driver, Dianne
Rooker, was found to be at fault. Ms. Rooker carried
automobile liability insurance with a policy limit of $100,
000, and her insurance carrier tendered an offer to Ms.
Phillips for those policy limits. Ms. Phillips carried $1,
000, 000 in uninsured / underinsured motorist (UM) coverage
through policies issued by the defendant, Farmers Insurance
Company, Inc. (Farmers).
receiving the $100, 000 offer from Ms. Rooker's liability
insurance carrier, Ms. Phillips notified Farmers of the
offer. Farmers responded that it would waive its subrogation
rights so that Ms. Phillips could receive the $100, 000
payment. Ms. Phillips was thus paid that amount by
Rooker's liability carrier. Subsequently, after taking
sworn statements from Ms. Phillips and one of her treating
doctors, Farmers paid Ms. Phillips $84, 165.00 in UM
benefits. Ms. Phillips then initiated this action in state
court by the filing of a Petition on August 28, 2017. (Doc. 2
at 4). She asserted a contract claim against Farmers and
alleged that Farmers had not sufficiently paid UM benefits to
compensate for her damages. (See id.). Prior to
trial, the parties entered numerous stipulations that would
significantly impact the presentation of the case to a jury.
They stipulated, among other things, to the following:
. “The tortfeasor, Dianne Rooker, had
an insurance policy providing liability limits of $100, 000,
which has been paid to the Plaintiff” (Doc. 54 at 1).
. “The [Farmers policies] provided [a]
total of $1, 000, 000 in UM/UIM coverage. From that coverage,
Farmers has paid $84, 165 to Ms. Phillips, leaving $915, 835
in available [UM] coverage” (Id.).
. “[N]o comment or evidence
will be introduced at trial in regard to the coverage and
policy limits of the tortfeasor's insurance policy and
the UM/UIM limits of the polices issued by Farmers.”
. “[T]here will be no comment
or evidence introduced in regard to payment to Plaintiff from
the tortfeasor's insurance policy and from the UM/UIM
coverage and the policies issued by Farmers ”
. “The parties stipulate that to
determine the amount of a judgment to be entered in favor of
the Plaintiff and against the Defendant, the Court must first
subtract $184, 165 from the verdict, and must then apply a
cap on damages in the amount of $915, 835.”
(Id. at 2).
parties' Amended Stipulations were filed on April 4,
2019, the day before the Pretrial Conference.
April 5, 2019, following the Pretrial Conference, the Court
signed and filed the Pretrial Order, which had been submitted
by the parties. In the Pretrial Order, the parties agreed
that the issues of fact to be litigated at trial included
“[t]he amount of actual damages to fairly and justly
compensate Plaintiff . . . for injuries caused by the August
27, 2012 wreck taking into account all elements of damages to
which she is entitled under Oklahoma law.” (Doc. 56 at
the jury trial set to commence on June 19, 2019, Ms. Phillips
filed a Motion to Amend Joint Stipulation on May 30, 2019.
(Doc. 72). She asked the Court to “amend” the
parties' amended stipulations based on her assertion that
her stipulation to subtract $184, 165 from the verdict was
“entered into by the Plaintiff based on an erroneous
interpretation of [Okla. Stat. tit. 36, ] §
3636.” (Id. at 1). Ms. Phillips represented
that, since stipulating to the subtraction of the $184, 165
from the jury verdict, her counsel had “researched the
matter thoroughly” and “believes Oklahoma law
does not allow Farmers to get credit for the $100, 000 paid
by Dianne Rooker's insurance company because Farmers did
not substitute its payment for that of Ms. Rooker's
insurance company.” (Id.). Plaintiff thus
“contend[ed] that substitution of payment is a
prerequisite for Farmers to reduce the verdict by $100,
considering Ms. Phillips's request to “amend”
the parties' amended stipulations, as well as the
response filed by Farmers (Doc. 73) and Phillips's reply
(Doc. 74), the Court denied Ms. Phillips's request by
entering a Minute Order:
The plaintiff's Motion to Amend Joint Stipulation (Doc.
72) is denied. The plaintiff's argument ignores the
purpose and language of the applicable statute and
contractual underinsured motorist coverage, which covers
damages above the limits of a tortfeasor's insurance
coverage. The cases cited by plaintiff are inapposite. In
Barnes v. Oklahoma Farm Bur. Mut. Ins. Co., 11 P.3d 162
(Okla. 2000), the issue involved the insurer claiming its own
underinsured motorist coverage LIMIT was reduced by the
amount of the underinsured tortfeasor's insurance limit,
and the insurer's argument was directly contrary to the
language of the statute. Weatherly v. Flournoy, 929 P.2d 296
(Okla.Civ.App. 1996) involved a tortfeasor's attempt to
receive credit for earlier payments made by the
plaintiff's insurer under an uninsured motorist policy.
That is not similar to this case. An insurer's
underinsured motorist policy covers the amount of damages
that exceed the liability limit of the tortfeasor's
insurance and that is what is at issue in this case.
case proceeded to trial on the issue of the total amount of
Ms. Phillips's damages. Consistent with the manner in
which the parties had arranged the case for trial, the Court
instructed the jury that “[t]he issues you must decide
in this case are (1) what injuries to Ms. Phillips were
directly caused by the car wreck and (2) what amount of money
will reasonably and fairly compensate Ms. Phillips for those
injuries.” (Doc. 87 at 4 [Jury Instruction No. 3]). In
accord with Ms. Phillips's repeated representations that
she was “not asking for damages for past medical
bills” (Doc. 38; see also Doc. 47 at 2; Doc.
55 at 4-5), the jury was instructed that the plaintiff was
not seeking expenses for past medical care. (See
Doc. 87 at 16 [Jury Instruction No. 15]).
Jury Instruction regarding the measure of damages also did
not include future medical expenses, as her counsel
volunteered at the jury instruction conference that he had
not presented any evidence of future medical expenses and
thus the jury instruction should not include such expenses in
the categories of damages to be considered by the jury.
(See id.). The jury was ultimately instructed that
it “must fix the amount of plaintiff's damages,
” which “is the amount of money that will
reasonably and fairly compensate [her] for the injury or
injuries that were directly caused by the car wreck involved
in this case.” (Id.).
jury returned a verdict stating: “We, the jury,
empaneled and sworn in the above-entitled case, do, upon our
oaths, fix the dollar amount of plaintiff's damages in
the sum of $237, 500.00.” (Doc. 88). Following the
conclusion of trial, the Court entered Judgment (Doc. 89),
stating in relevant part:
In accordance with the jury's verdict fixing
plaintiff's damages in the amount of $237, 500.00 (Doc.
88) and the parties' stipulation that “the Court
must first subtract $184, 165.00 from the verdict”
(Doc. 54), final judgment is hereby entered in favor of the
plaintiff, Marilyn Ann Phillips, ...