Friday, September 21, 2012

Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Murphy case brief

Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Murphy
206 Conn. 409
-An action was filed against the insured to recover damages caused to a building as a result of the manner in which the insured dismantled his office after termination of a lease.
-The insured impleaded his liability insurance company and the company successfully moved for summary judgment on the grounds that insured inexcusably and unreasonably delayed in complying with the notice provisions of the insurance contract.
-Defendant sought review. The court affirmed, not because of the unreasonable delay, but because insured failed to allege that insurance company had not been materially prejudiced by the delay.

Procedural History:
-D insured sought review of the partial summary judgment entered in favor of third party defendant insurance company in an indemnification action to recover damages for breach of contract.

-An insured who belatedly gives notice of an insurance claim may nonetheless recover on the insurance contract by rebutting the presumption that the delay prejudiced the insurer. i.e. the pl. would have to prove that the insurance company was not harmed by the delay. 
-Think about equity: Who is getting what?

-If the occurrence of a condition is required by the agreement of the parties, rather than as a matter of law, a rule of strict compliance traditionally applies. On the other hand, the rigor of this traditional principle of strict compliance has increasingly been tempered by the recognition that the occurrence of a condition may, in appropriate circumstances, be excused in order to avoid a disproportionate forfeiture.
-To the extent that the non-occurrence of a condition would cause disproportionate forfeiture, a court may excuse the non-occurrence of that condition unless its occurrence was a material part of the agreed exchange.
-In the absence of conduct that is “willful,” a contracting party may, despite his own departure from the specifications of his contract, enforce the obligations of the other party with whom he has dealt in good faith.
-In appropriate circumstances, a contracting party, despite his own default, may be entitled to relief from the rigorous enforcement of contract provisions that would otherwise amount to a forfeiture.
-A proper balance between the interests of the insurer and the insured requires a factual inquiry into whether, in the circumstances of a particular case, an insurer has been prejudiced by its insured’s delay in giving notice of an event triggering insurance coverage. If it can be shown that the insurer suffered no material prejudice from the delay, the nonoccurrence of the condition of timely notice may be excused because it is not a material part of the agreed exchange. Absent a showing of material prejudice, an insured’s failure to give timely notice does not discharge the insurer’s continuing duty to provide insurance coverage.

-Trial court was correct in granting summary judgment, although not for the reason upon which it relied.

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