DOLLY ROMPREY et al. v. SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, SC 18858

Judicial District of New Haven

 

Insurance; Underinsured Motorist Coverage; Statute of Limitations; Summary Judgment; Whether There was no Genuine Issue of Material Fact that Claim did not Involve an Underinsured Motorist; Whether Tolling Provision, if Applicable, was Satisfied. Dolly Romprey was injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2004. In 2008, she and her spouse brought this action seeking underinsured motorist benefits under their automobile insurance policy with the defendant. The defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that the action was barred by the terms of the policy and pursuant to General Statutes 38a-336 (g) (1) because it was not brought within three years of the date of the accident. Section 38a-336 (g) (1) provides that an insured may toll any applicable limitation period for bringing suit on an underinsured motorist claim by (1) notifying the insurer of the claim in writing before the expiration of such period and (2) commencing suit or demanding arbitration within a designated time period after exhausting the policy limits of all applicable insurance policies. The insurance policy's tolling provision closely tracks 38a-336 (g) (1). In opposition to the motion, the plaintiffs submitted two unauthenticated copies of letters to the defendant notifying it that they had exhausted the tortfeasor's policy and requesting arbitration; they also submitted an unauthenticated document entitled "settlement statement" which indicated that the plaintiffs had received a $25,000 settlement from the tortfeasor. The trial court determined that the plaintiffs, in order to come within the tolling provision, were required to satisfy the threshold requirement that their claim involved an underinsured motor vehicle. Finding that the plaintiffs failed to show that the total limit of the tortfeasor's insurance coverage was less than the $500,000 limit in coverage under the plaintiffs' policy and, further, that the coverage was exhausted by the settlement, the court concluded that it was impossible to determine that their claim involved an underinsured motorist. The court further determined that, even assuming that the claim involved an underinsured motor vehicle, the plaintiffs failed to submit sufficient evidence to show that the two prongs of the tolling provision had been satisfied. The plaintiffs appealed to the Appellate Court (129 Conn. App. 481). Determining that there was no competent evidence indicating that the tortfeasor had a policy that was exhausted by payment to the plaintiffs, the Appellate Court agreed that the plaintiffs did not show that their claim involved an underinsured motor vehicle and, consequently, that the policy's limitations period was tolled. The court therefore affirmed the trial court's judgment. The Supreme Court will address whether the Appellate Court properly upheld the trial court's ruling that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the tortfeasor was underinsured when the defendant conceded in its motion for summary judgment that the issue was in dispute. It will also consider whether the trial court properly determined that there was no disputed issue of material fact regarding whether the tolling provision, if applicable, was satisfied.