Monday, March 25, 2013

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Peiffer case brief

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Peiffer case brief
955 P.2d 1008 (Colo. 1998)

Respondent insured filed an action for breach of automobile insurance contract against petitioner insurer for the refusal to pay the insured personal injury protection (PIP) benefits under the Colorado Auto Accident Reparations Act, 3 Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 10-4-701 to 723(1997). The jury awarded the insured damages after the jury was given a thin skull jury instruction. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed and the insurer sought review.

OVERVIEW: The insurer alleged the thin skull instruction was a tort doctrine and had no application to a breach of contract claim. The thin skull doctrine instruction stated the jury could not have reduced the amount or refused to have awarded any such payment because of any physical frailties or mental conditions of the insured that may have made her more susceptible to injury or disability.

The court held it was fundamental that a tortfeasor accepted the victim as the victim was found.

-The thin skull instruction was proper in tort cases when a defendant attempted to spotlight or reduce liability by calling attention to a plaintiff's pre-existing condition or predisposition to injury.
-Under the No Fault Act, an insurer had to pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred by an insured in an accident arising out of the use of an automobile.
-The court held the purpose of the No Fault Act was to decrease tort litigation and it precluded action except under limited statutory circumstances.
-Applying this principle, damages for breach of PIP contract was analogous to tort damages as the PIP contract involved an unforeseeable amount of money therefore, the instruction was proper.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed and remanded the case.

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