Monday, May 18, 2009

Donald Trump's Recent Lawsuit Oughta Be Fired...

May must be "corporate frivolous lawsuit month." If it's not, I've just declared it. First, Oprah got sued by Mutual Of Omaha for simply uttering a phrase (an "A ha moment") that Mutual claims is theirs. Now, Donald Trump has apparently sued a reporter for defamation. No, the reporter did not disparage The Donald's personal reputation, lifestyle, or even his hair. The claim: he defamed Trump for writing in an article that Trump was only a "millionaire" rather than a "BILLIONAIRE." Poor guy (pardon the pun).

Seems like the Donald was offended by he sued on behalf of his business empire, claiming that this horrible and false sleight cost him business. Can someone with a grain of common sense please tell me why on earth this lawsuit has not been dismissed? If this were an ordinary citizen bringing this lawsuit, I imagine the Chamber of Commerce and all their tort reform allies would be cutting another commercial railing about yet another "frivolous lawsuit" filed by a parasitic plaintiff and their personal injury lawyer that is clogging our court system. After all, The StarChamber has recently spent millions on its annual "lawsuit abuse" PR campaign (ever notice that the first two letters of propaganda are "PR")?

So why is there no room on the StarChamber's "lawsuit abuse" campaign mantle for this dud of a lawsuit? Perhaps they decided to look the other way because of The Donald's business acumen and celebrity status. But they have no compunction about continuing to parade the McDonald's "hot coffee" case (which is over 15 years old) as the poster child for what's wrong with our legal system. So here's the lesson: if you have millions (or even billions), our legal system is yours to use and fool around with at your whim. But if your a common Jane or Joe who uses the same legal system, suddenly it's a system gone amuck and you're just looking to hold another defenseless business hostage and dupe a jury into returning a "runaway verdict."

This lawsuit oughta be fired.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reason No 27 Why Your "Full Coverage" Auto Policy Might Be Meaningless

A recent Ohio case illustrates why the term "full coverage auto policy" is a meaningless term. Here's the scenario: you ask your agent to procure a "full coverage auto policy" for you. You think your agent has done this for you. two years after the policy is issued, you're injured by a negligent motorist with minimal liability limits. So you settle your claim with the negligent motorist's insurance company, and then attempt to pursue a "underinsured motorists'claim" against your own insurance company. Definition: a claim brought against your own insurance company when your injuries, medical bills, and lost wages exceed the negligent motorist's liability limits.

Your agent's response: "What underinsured motorists coverage? You rejected this coverage." The agent then produces an office note to the effect that you did not want uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage. Your response: "B.S. I told you I wanted a full coverage policy that included uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorists' coverage!"

This is what happened in Robson v. Quentin Cadd Agency, 179 Ohio App. 3rd, 2008 Ohio 5309. The injured party-insured sued the agent for negligently failing to procure the "full coverage" policy the insured requested. The trial court dismissed the case, reasoning that the insured had a duty to read the policy, which did not include the UM/UIM coverage.

Thankfully, the court of appeals re-institued the case, and ruled that a jury should determine whether the agent did not properly procure the necessary coverage. But the court of appeals also ruled that the jury should also consider whether the insured was also negligent in not reading the policy, which clearly did not include the UM/UIM coverage the insured thought he was getting.

As a result of this fiasco, the insured has now bought an expensive lawsuit and jury trial over what exactly happened and who bears responsibility for not including the UM/UIM coverage in the policy.

This is EXACTLY the problem with a "full coverage" auto policy. It has a definite meaning to purchasers of insurance ("I'm getting EVERYTHING"), but it has little to no meaning to the insurance industry and agents(it can virtually mean ANYTHING).

Lesson learned: Ask your agent to define, IN WRITING, what exactly is included in a "full coverage" policy. The most important part of your auto coverage is your UM/UIM coverage, which protects YOU if you're hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Make sure any quote from your agent includes this coverage. And make sure your put IN WRITING that you want this coverage. That way, you have left a paper trail as to what you intended to purchase. Otherwise, if the agent fails to obtain this coverage (like the agent did in this case), you're in a standoff of "I said, he said," and then you're talking to an attorney and have just bought a lawsuit with an uncertain outcome. And the last thing you need is a bunch of legal bills piled on the kitchen table next to all the hospital bills...