INSURANCE-RELATED COURT CASES
Digested from case reports published online
Single justice’s decision is affirmed on appeal
In a complaint filed in district court, Alicia Salaman alleged that she was injured and her vehicle damaged when a vehicle driven by another driver collided with her vehicle. Count one of her complaint alleged that the other driver was negligent. Count two alleged that her insurer, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, violated a state statute by failing to pay personal injury protection benefits. Count three alleged that Liberty Mutual violated other state statutes. Count four asserted claims against the other driver’s insurer pursuant to state statutes.
Liberty Mutual moved for summary judgment as to counts two and three. The motion with respect to count two was granted based on the court’s conclusion that Salaman had committed a breach of her contract with Liberty Mutual by failing to submit to an examination under oath. The court concluded, however, that there was a genuine dispute of material fact concerning Liberty Mutual’s conduct in handling Salaman’s claim, and it denied summary judgment as to count three.
Liberty Mutual appealed from a judgment of a single justice who denied its petition for extraordinary relief pursuant to a state statute and under the doctrine of present execution. The doctrine holds that an interlocutory order is immediately appealable if it concerns an issue that is collateral to the basic controversy … and the ruling will interfere with rights in a way that cannot be remedied on appeal from the final judgment.
Liberty Mutual contended that requiring it to go forward as to count three compelled it “to engage in frivolous litigation and incur unnecessary costs,” thus violating its “rights” relative to the summary judgment entered on count two. The court, however, said that the argument “fails to address why the substantive error allegedly committed by the [district court judge] cannot be remedied on appeal” from a final judgment or by other means, as required by state statute.
According to the court, Liberty Mutual failed to demonstrate an appropriate occasion for exercise of the extraordinary power of general superintendence.
The court continued: “[The fact that] Liberty Mutual may consider further litigation wasteful or inexpedient does not necessarily negate the efficacy of the ordinary trial and appellate process to vindicate its position. Further, to the extent Liberty Mutual believed, as it now contends, that the district court judge’s denial of summary judgment was subject to the doctrine of present execution, its remedy was to file a notice of appeal and pursue an immediate appeal as of its right in the appeals court.”
The judgment of the district court was affirmed.
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Salaman—Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts—December 16, 2021—No. SJC-13188.