John B. Stewart, Attorney at Law
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Of the firm Murphy & Manitsas, LLP
Springfield, MA
Practice Areas
    > Practice Areas > Subrogation

Subrogation

Insurers which pay first party benefits to their insureds for a loss are typically entitled to assert their contractual or equitable right to recover from responsible third parties.

An example of a successful subrogation recovery was the case of next door neighbors W and M. When M's barn caught fire, the heat of the flames melted siding and caused other damage to W's property. The M's liability insurer refused to pay what was judged to be a reasonable amount and suit was brought, depositions were taken, and trial ensued before a jury in December 2007, which resulted in an award in favor of the subrogating insurer for 100 percent of the damages sought, plus interest and costs. The defendant had taken the position that the plaintiff could not prove liability without an expert witness on the cause and origin of the fire as owing to the defendant's negligence rather than another cause. At trial the fire chief was called an testified based on the plaintiff's admission that his conduct started the fire, no investigation was initiated.
 
In another case tried District Court in May 2009, following a summary trial a homeowners insurer was awarded a judgment reimbursing every dime it paid to its policyholder, against a motorist who was allegedly operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol and lost control of his vehicle and ran off the road into the policyholder's garage.  Since the motorist had earlier been found "responsible" for a civil marked lanes violation and had admitted to facts sufficient to warrant a finding of criminal drunk driving, liability for negligent operation was established, or nearly so, under judicial issue preclusion principles.  Damages were established by certified records of the outside adjuster's loss appraisal.
 
An almost identical recovery was secured by settlement after suit was filed in February 2011 -- again involving an intoxicated motorist leaving the roadway and striking a house, and a full recovery for the homeowner's insurer which had paid the house damages then brought suit against the at-fault motorist. 

 
 
 
John B. Stewart, Attorney at Law, Of the firm Murphy & Manitsas, LLP
20 Maple Street, Suite 301, Springfield, MA 01103 • Ph (413) 206-9134 • Fax (413) 733-4403