Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals Grants Summary Judgment to Insurance Company Due to Insured’s Lack of Cooperation on Claim

We often think that our insurance company is on our side. And  their advertising tries to sell that idea to you. But it is not unusual for an insurance dispute to arise in an Ohio car accident case or when your vehicle covered by an insurance policy has been stolen. In either situation, the person who is claiming benefits under the policy has a duty to cooperate with their insurance company. This is a contractual obligation that, if breached, can result in the insured person receiving no benefits under the policy. There is no duty to cooperate with the other side’s insurance company, but only your own.

As in other matters pertaining to automobile accidents and insurance issues, however, it is wise to consult an experienced attorney to guide you through the process of filing a claim, especially if you or a family member has been hurt in a car wreck or you have another type of insurance claim. Often, property damage claims do not require a lawyer, but you still have to do what yur policy requires you to do.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case considered by the Court of Appeals of Ohio for the Eighth Appellate District (Cuyahoga County), the plaintiff was a woman who sued Progressive Insurance, claiming that it  had  mishandled  a claim she made relating  to the theft of her automobile. Progressive claimed that she had not cooperated with the insurance company as her policy required, while she claimed that she had done what was required of her. The Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas granted summary judgment to the defendant insurance company( which meant that she lost, as a matter of law), and the plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Ruling 

The Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the Court of Common Pleas. Although the plaintiff claimed  that she had cooperated and provided all pertinent information to the defendant insurance company, which nevertheless intentionally and maliciously refused to settle her claim, the appeals court agreed with the insurance company, ruling  that it was the plaintiff who had failed to comply with the terms and conditions of her insurance policy.

Rule 36 of the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure allows parties to a lawsuit to narrow the issues by requesting that they admit certain facts to be true. These so-called Requests for Admissions may only be denied if the party denying them has  a good faith basis for doing so. Otherwise, the court may deem them to be admitted and used in court. In this case the plaintiff claimed that she could not respond to many of the requests for admissions because the insurance company had not produced the documents she needed in order to respond.    The Appeals Court disagreed, noting that  the plaintiff had failed to use the discovery methods available to her to force Progressive to produce the documents she claimed she was entitled to. The court rejected her argument that she could not admit or deny the admissions because the defendant had not provided copies of pertinent documents and also noted that the plaintiff should have already had these in her possession anyway.

With regard to the primary issue on appeal, that of summary judgment, the appellate court also sided with the defendant. Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and  the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The insurance company defendant had been granted summary judgment in the trial court because the plaintiff had failed to cooperate in the investigation of her claim. Previous Ohio case law holds that the cooperation clause in an insurance policy is a fully enforceable contract provision. The practical meaning of this legal principle is that  due to the plaintiff’s lack of cooperation, the defendant was relieved of its liability under the policy.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Cleveland Car Accident Lawyer

At the Cleveland law firm of Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., we represent those who have suffered a personal injury in a car or truck accident or who have lost a loved one due to another’s negligence. Please call us at 216-696-4006 to schedule an appointment to discuss your case.

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