In Porter v. Farmers Insurance Co., (unpublished decision) the insured, Porter was in a one car accident in 2007. Porter anonymously called in the accident in 2008, and then identified himself and told Farmers about the accident in 2009. Porter initially claimed he did not recall the circumstances of the accident, but thought it was a one car accident. Later, he claimed another car was involved which caused the accident. Before the accident, Porter added the car to his policy. Porter said he wanted to add it as an additional car, but the agent replaced the truck Porter had insured with the car. Porter had previously signed a UM waiver on his truck, but did not sign one on the car.
Farmers decided that UM coverage was imputed as a matter of law and tendered payment. Porter's lawyer told Farmers to withhold payment while it was determined whether there were any liens on the payment. Eventually, in October, 2011, payment was made. Porter sued for breach of contract and bad faith. Summary judgment to Farmers was affirmed by the Tenth Circuit. The trial court held that to the extent UM coverage was imputed by law, Farmers’ payment of the statutory limit entitled it to summary judgment on the breach of contract claim. Denying Mr. Porter’s bad faith claim, the court held that Farmers’ investigation was adequate and its delayed payment was reasonable.
The Tenth Circuit states:
Mr. Porter’s breach of contract claim fails for two reasons. First, Mr. Porter has not offered evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Farmers breached its contractual duties—express or implied. Farmers only has a duty to pay UM coverage where its insured suffers damages due to an uninsured motorist or a hit-and-run. In the event of an accident, “notice must be given to [Farmers] promptly” and must include “the time, place and circumstances of the accident.” The first time Mr. Porter gave notice of his UM claim was August 4, 2009—over two years after the accident. Farmers promptly investigated this allegation but found no evidence of a second driver. . . .It was not until his November 2009 EUO that Mr. Porter first mentioned the other vehicle. Less than seven weeks later, Farmers offered full payment of the UM coverage. Second, Mr. Porter failed to offer evidence of any damages resulting from the alleged breach. Mr. Porter claimed he was entitled to prejudgment interest on the UM payment. It was Mr. Porter who initially requested a delay in payment, and the later delays were not the fault of Farmers. Accordingly, it would be improper to hold Farmers liable for delays beyond its control.
As to bad faith, the delay in payment was reasonable while Farmers investigated the claim. Also, there was a legitimate dispute as to whether the accident involved an uninsured motorist. Farmer's decision to seek counsel did not cause unreasonable delay as stated by Porter's expert, Diane Luther. "Ms. Luther contends that the retention of counsel and subsequent EUO were unnecessary because Farmers already had the information necessary to decide Mr. Porter’s claim. But this conclusion is simply contrary to the facts viewed against a backdrop of the applicable law, and we need not accept it as true." It was in the EUO that Porter mentioned the other car for the first time. And, the delay in payment was reasonable, since Porter's attorney requested the delay.
There was no inadequate investigation. It is unclear whether additional investigation would have uncovered other facts. There was no duty to investigate based on the telephone call where Mr. Porter failed to identify himself.