Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bicknell v. Havlin case brief summary

Bicknell v. Havlin
a.       Case History:
                                                              i.      Bicknell claims to be aggrieved about the directed verdict on counts 1 and 3
1.      Counts 1 and 3 allege negligence by D to properly place insurance on two buildings leased by Bicknell
                                                            ii.      Trial judge granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict on count 2 after the jury awarded $40,000 to P
1.      Appellate reversed decision on count 2 because both parties stipulated that the $40,000 constituted the only recoverable damages out of all 3 counts
b.      Facts:
                                                              i.      P is in the business of distributing swimming pools and accessories since 1957
                                                            ii.      D bought up P’s insurance agency in 1969
                                                          iii.      D met with P and they decided to continue doing business
                                                          iv.      D talked P into buying some sort of multiperil policy to insure his commercial stock
1.      P had to send an inventory report to D every month to update the value of the commercial stock
                                                            v.      In 1974 D noticed that the value of the commercial stock exceeded the policy limit
                                                          vi.      D phoned P and P’s employee (Smith) agreed to raise the limit from $540,000 to $750,000, effective immediately
                                                        vii.      During the conversation, P’s employee told D that there were two new warehouses being constructed, and P would lease them from the owner
                                                      viii.      10 days later, D called P’s employee, and P’s employee advised him there would be $50,000 worth of stock in each new warehouse, and D said, “Let’s slap fifty-thousand on each building”
                                                          ix.      P thought the insurance was $100,000 being added in a blanket policy that would be $850,000 total. D instead put $50,000 of specific coverage on the two new buildings
                                                            x.      D sent P an invoice that did not explain the difference between the specific coverage for the two new buildings, and the blanket $750,000 policy.
                                                          xi.      In May, P transmitted the value of his commercial stock as $839,000.
1.      D put $739,000 in the blanket policy, and $100,000 in the two new buildings
                                                        xii.      A fire broke out in one of the two new buildings in June
1.      Damages of $103,275.91
2.      Insurance carrier paid the $50,000 policy
                                                      xiii.      D then wrote to the insurance carrier admitting to making “a technical error of judgment due to unfamiliarity with advantage of blanket, versus specific, coverage on contents.”
1.      D also admitted to “an obvious element of confusion” regarding the different types of coverage
c.       Ruling
                                                              i.      The evidence warrants a finding that D was an agent for P
                                                            ii.      An agent must use due care in regard to the implementation of the agency and according to the instructions of his principle
                                                          iii.      The nature and extent of the duty of care owed by an insurance agent is in part related to the amount of expertise the agent claims to have
                                                          iv.      D undertook to advise P and to make recommendations
1.      D suggested the $50,000 policy
                                                            v.      A jury could reasonably find D liable
                                                          vi.      There is no merit to D’s argument that expert testimony must be entered to show a failure to use due care, since D admitted to an error in judgment
                                                        vii.      Judgment on count 2, the JNOV, is reversed. Judgment is entered for the P on the verdict of the jury

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