Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., No. 19470

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtAMUNDSON
Citation562 N.W.2d 117,1997 SD 43
Decision Date12 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. 19470
PartiesRichard JULSON and Doris Julson, and Viking Industries, Inc., a South Dakota corporation, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. FEDERATED MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant and Appellee. . Considered on Briefs

Page 117

562 N.W.2d 117
1997 SD 43
Richard JULSON and Doris Julson, and Viking Industries,
Inc., a South Dakota corporation, Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
FEDERATED MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant and Appellee.
No. 19470.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Considered on Briefs Sept. 12, 1996.
Decided April 16, 1997.
Rehearing Denied May 15, 1997.

Peter Sommervold of Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith, Sioux Falls, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Charles M. Thompson of May, Adam, Gerdes & Thompson, Pierre, for defendant and appellee.

AMUNDSON, Justice.

¶1 Richard and Doris Julson, and Viking Industries, Inc. (Julsons), appeal from a decision of the trial court granting summary judgment to Federated Mutual Insurance Co. (Federated) on Julsons' claim for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. We affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 Julsons formed and incorporated Viking Industries, Inc., a van conversion business located in Flandreau, South Dakota. On December 23, 1988, the primary manufacturing facility burned to the ground. Julsons were insured by Federated, with a policy limit of $293,000.00 for the building loss and $80,000.00 for the building's content loss. At the time of the loss, the reasonable market values of the building and its contents were

Page 119

$343,637.04 and $354,060.41, respectively. In addition, vehicles destroyed by the fire, less salvage value, amounted to $265,382.17, all of which Federated paid. The total value of the property destroyed by the fire was $964,114.37. Federated paid its full policy limits, totaling $639,316.92. Thus, Julsons claim to have suffered a net loss of $324,797.45 before their eventual settlement with the third-party tortfeasor.

¶3 Following an investigation regarding the cause of the fire, Federated notified Julsons of its intention to assert its contractual subrogation rights against several third-party tortfeasors, to which Julsons did not object. Next, Federated commenced a lawsuit against the third-party tortfeasors, Minnegasco, et al. (Viking Indus., Inc. v. Minnegasco, Civ. 91-95 (SD 1994)). Then Julsons, assisted by their attorneys, joined in the lawsuit to pursue their right to recover total damages. Before trial, Federated settled the subrogation claim for an undisclosed amount. The settlement agreement expressly provided that Julsons could continue their lawsuit against the tortfeasors to collect their total claimed loss. Prior to settlement, Federated paid all of the litigation costs for both itself and Julsons. Julsons eventually settled with the tortfeasors for $202,333.00, thereby avoiding litigation costs of their own.

¶4 Julsons sued Federated, claiming bad faith in that Federated breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing when it settled with the tortfeasors prior to Julsons being made whole, thereby willfully disregarding the rights of Julsons. After discovery, Federated moved for summary judgment. A hearing was held on the summary judgment motion and the trial court granted the motion. Julsons then filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied. The grant of summary judgment is appealed by Julsons and they raise the following issues:

I. Does a genuine issue of material fact exist as to Julsons' claim that Federated committed bad faith?

II. Are Julsons entitled to be made whole before a subrogation interest arises in favor of the insurer?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶5 The standard of review for the grant or denial of a summary judgment motion in lawsuits involving tort claims was stated in Ford v. Moore:

Summary judgment is authorized "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." SDCL 15-6-56(c). We will affirm only when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the legal questions have been correctly decided. Bego v. Gordon, 407 N.W.2d 801, 804 (S.D.1987). All reasonable inferences drawn from the facts must be viewed in favor of the non-moving party. Morgan v. Baldwin, 450 N.W.2d 783, 785 (S.D.1990). The burden is on the moving party to clearly show an absence of any genuine issue of material fact and an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wilson v. Great N. Ry. Co., 83 S.D. 207, 212, 157 N.W.2d 19, 21 (1968).

1996 SD 112, p 7, 552 N.W.2d 850, 852 (involving the purported negligence of an attorney in failing to bring a timely federal tort claim); see also VerBouwens v. Hamm Wood Prods., 334 N.W.2d 874, 876 (S.D.1983) (pertaining to an intentional tort claim).

DECISION

¶6 In Walz v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., we reiterated the test to be met in a bad faith cause of action against an insurer:

"[F]or proof of bad faith, there must be an absence of a reasonable basis for denial of policy benefits [or failure to comply with a duty under the insurance contract] and the knowledge or reckless disregard [of the lack] of a reasonable basis for denial, implicit in that test is our conclusion that the knowledge of the lack of a reasonable basis may be inferred and imputed to an insurance company where there is a reckless disregard of a lack of a reasonable basis for denial or a reckless indifference to facts or to proofs submitted by the insured.

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Under these tests of the tort of bad faith, an insurance company, however, may challenge claims which are fairly debatable and will be found liable only where it has intentionally denied (or failed to process...

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26 practice notes
  • Dm & E v. Acuity, No. 24892.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • August 5, 2009
    ...Julson that bad faith can extend to situations beyond mere denial of policy benefits." Id. (citing Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 1997 SD 43, ¶ 6, 562 N.W.2d 117, 119). [¶ 19.] Bad faith conduct may include the failure to conduct a reasonable investigation concerning the claim. Wal......
  • Mudlin v. Hills Materials Co., No. 24339.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 14, 2007
    ...Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 718 F.Supp. 759, 762 (D.S.D.1989), aff'd, 912 F.2d 961 (8thCir.1990); Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 1997 SD 43, ¶ 6, 562 N.W.2d 117, 120, (1997); Walz, 1996 SD 135, ¶ 7, 556 N.W.2d at 70 (1996); In re Certification of a Question of Law from the U.S. Dis......
  • Hein v. Acuity, No. 23903.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • April 18, 2007
    ...1275 (Colo.1985)); see also Isaac v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 522 N.W.2d 752, 758 (S.D.1994); Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 1997 SD 43, ¶ 6, 562 N.W.2d 117, [¶ 11.] Wrongful conduct toward an employee claimant by the employer's insurer in a workers' compensation case does not fi......
  • Cromwell v. Rapid City Police Dept., No. 21582.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 25, 2001
    ...have been correctly decided.'" Casazza v. State, 2000 SD 120, ¶ 8, 616 N.W.2d 872, 874 (quoting Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 1997 SD 43, ¶ 5, 562 N.W.2d 117, [¶ 8.] "Whether the defendants are protected by sovereign immunity is a question of law, reviewed de novo, with no de......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • Dm & E v. Acuity, No. 24892.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • August 5, 2009
    ...in Julson that bad faith can extend to situations beyond mere denial of policy benefits." Id. (citing Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 1997 SD 43, ¶ 6, 562 N.W.2d 117, 119). [¶ 19.] Bad faith conduct may include the failure to conduct a reasonable investigation concerning the claim. Walz,......
  • Mudlin v. Hills Materials Co., No. 24339.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 14, 2007
    ...St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 718 F.Supp. 759, 762 (D.S.D.1989), aff'd, 912 F.2d 961 (8thCir.1990); Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 1997 SD 43, ¶ 6, 562 N.W.2d 117, 120, (1997); Walz, 1996 SD 135, ¶ 7, 556 N.W.2d at 70 (1996); In re Certification of a Question of Law from the U.S. Dis......
  • Hein v. Acuity, No. 23903.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • April 18, 2007
    ...1275 (Colo.1985)); see also Isaac v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 522 N.W.2d 752, 758 (S.D.1994); Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 1997 SD 43, ¶ 6, 562 N.W.2d 117, [¶ 11.] Wrongful conduct toward an employee claimant by the employer's insurer in a workers' compensation case does not fi......
  • Cromwell v. Rapid City Police Dept., No. 21582.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 25, 2001
    ...have been correctly decided.'" Casazza v. State, 2000 SD 120, ¶ 8, 616 N.W.2d 872, 874 (quoting Julson v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 1997 SD 43, ¶ 5, 562 N.W.2d 117, [¶ 8.] "Whether the defendants are protected by sovereign immunity is a question of law, reviewed de novo, with no deference gi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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