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Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Co. v. Bradford

Supreme Court of Alabama

September 26, 2014

Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company
v.
Michael S. Bradford

Released for Publication June 15, 2015.

Appeal from Jackson Circuit Court. (CV-11-900138). John H. Graham, Trial Judge.

AFFIRMED.

For Appellant: Stephen V. Hammond of Chenault Hammond, P.C., Decatur.

For Appellee: Edward E. Wilson, Jr., and Christopher J. Donovan of Tatum Wilson PC, Huntsville.

MAIN, Justice. Moore, C.J., and Bryan, J., concur. Murdock, J., concurs specially. Bolin, J., concurs in the result.

OPINION

Page 538

MAIN, Justice.

Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company (" Penn National" ) was sued by Jacob T. Walker, an employee of its named insured, seeking underinsured-motorist (" UIM" ) benefits following an automobile accident. After settling the claims against it, Penn National filed a cross-claim against Michael S. Bradford, the alleged tortfeasor, asserting a subrogation theory of recovery. The trial court dismissed the cross-claim on the ground that it was barred by the statute of limitations, and Penn National appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

I. Facts and Procedural History

On September 21, 2009, Walker was involved in an accident when the vehicle he was operating, a truck owned by his employer, collided with a vehicle being operated by Bradford. Bradford's vehicle was insured by GEICO Indemnity Company and carried a bodily-injury limit of $25,000 per person. On September 14, 2011, Walker sued Bradford and Penn National in the Jackson Circuit Court. The complaint alleged that the accident was caused by Bradford's negligent and/or wanton operation of his vehicle and that the accident caused Walker to sustain permanent injury and other damage. Walker also asserted a claim for UIM benefits against Penn National, the insurer who provided UIM coverage for the vehicle operated by Walker.

Before trial, Walker and Bradford reached a tentative settlement agreement pursuant to which Walker agreed to dismiss his claims against Bradford for $25,000, a sum representing the policy limits of Bradford's automobile-liability insurance with GEICO. Pursuant to the terms of his employer's insurance policy with Penn National, Walker notified Penn National of the proposed settlement agreement and requested Penn National's consent to the settlement and requested that Penn National waive its subrogation rights. Penn National declined to consent to the settlement and, under the guidelines set forth by this Court in Lambert v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 576 So.2d 160 (Ala. 1991), advanced the proposed $25,000 settlement amount to Walker in order to preserve its subrogation rights.

On June 21, 2013, Penn National and Walker settled Walker's UIM claim in the amount of $500,000 and filed a pro tanto stipulation of dismissal of Walker's claims against Penn National. Because Penn National did not consent to the proposed settlement between Walker and Bradford, Walker's claims against Bradford remained pending.

On July 2, 2013, prior to the entry of an order of dismissal of Penn National, Penn National filed a cross-claim against Bradford. The cross-claim asserted that Penn National was subrogated to the rights of Walker against Bradford and " assert[ed] against the tortfeasor, Michael Bradford, all of the causes of action alleged, or that could be alleged, against the tortfeasor by the plaintiff in this litigation." Bradford moved to dismiss the cross-claim on the ground that ...


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