And The Defense Wins
Published 2-11-15 by DRI
DRI member Kile Turner of Norman Wood Kendrick & Turner in Birmingham, Alabama, recently obtained a dismissal of an insurance class action from the Alabama Supreme Court. At issue was whether the trial court properly certified a class action against the carrier based on an exclusion in its policy that had previously been held invalid.
The class representative argued that when the exclusion was added to the policy, it effectively reduced coverage without a corresponding drop in premiums, resulting in a windfall to the carrier. After the class was certified by the trial court, Turner appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. In the appeal, he argued that under the “filed-rate” doctrine, the Alabama Department of Insurance, and not the Circuit Court of Lamar County (where the complaint was filed), had original jurisdiction as to any complaints because it had approved the premium and the endorsement. Under the “filed-rate” doctrine, once the appropriate regulatory agency (in this case, the Alabama Department of Insurance) approves a rate or form, it is deemed per sereasonable and cannot be attacked in judicial proceedings. Rather, a plaintiff must exhaust its administrative remedies before filing a complaint in circuit court.
The jurisdictional defect not only did away with the class action, but the entire lawsuit as well, resulting in a complete victory for the insurance carrier.
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