Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance v. Weston
Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance v. Weston, 2023 UT App 136 (Orme, J.) (Harris, J., concurring)
A driver was involved in a car accident. The trial court held that the Driver’s Insurance Company had properly cancelled the policy before the accident but that the Insurance Company nonetheless breached its duty to defend Driver in suit against the deceased driver’s insurance company. The trial court, thus, awarded Driver damages for emotional distress plus attorney fees. Upon reconsideration, the trial court reduced the damages to the driver’s costs only—not including attorney fees. On appeal, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding:
- The trial court correctly determined that the insurance policy was not active at the time of the accident, that the Insurance Company had breached its duty to defend Driver of the car, and that Driver had not proven that the Insurance Company’s failure to defend caused his emotional distress.
- The trial court incorrectly denied Driver attorney fees, which were a foreseeable result of the Insurance Company’s failure to defend.
- Concurrence: The best reading of Utah law is that insurers who breach their duty to defend are not thereby estopped from raising coverage defenses later.