Massachusetts Appeals Court Overturns Dismissal of Complaint Seeking Arbitration of UM Benefits Claim

One of the most common issues that arises in a car accident case is a dispute between the injured victim and the responsible driver’s insurance company. In many instances, the defendant’s insurer will try to avoid paying benefits to the injured plaintiff, causing many headaches for everyone involved.

Although you’d think the injured party’s own insurance company would have a better track record when it comes to cooperation, in many instances that is not the case. In Regis v. Progressive Insurance Company, the plaintiff made a claim under his own insurance policy seeking benefit payments pursuant to the uninsured motorist coverage included within. The plaintiff and his insurance company were unable to reach an agreement, and the plaintiff filed suit requesting the court to order his insurer into arbitration.

The insurance company responded to the complaint with a motion to dismiss, claiming that the plaintiff’s claim must be dismissed for lack of proof that he completed an examination under oath and for failure to provide specific documents. The insurance company also alleged that the claims violated Mass. Gen. Laws chs. 93A and 176D for unfair trade practices and that the claims were not subject to arbitration.

The trial court dismissed the suit, stating that the plaintiff’s complaint arose from a legal insurance question and that it was not properly the subject of an arbitration proceeding. The plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court reversed the lower court’s order dismissing the lawsuit and directed the lower court to dismiss only the portion of the action that requested arbitration pursuant to chapters 93A and 176D. The dismissal was without prejudice, allowing the plaintiff to reassert his claim in a civil proceeding as opposed to arbitration. The appellate court reasoned that the claims the plaintiff sought to arbitrate were not within the purview of the insurance policy’s clause requiring arbitration, so they must be brought in a civil action.

The appellate court also determined that the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim requesting arbitration of the parties’ dispute over payment of uninsured motorist benefits was improper. The trial court erred when it considered whether the insurer was able to assert a valid defense against the plaintiff’s claim that it had improperly denied coverage on the UM issue. The appropriate course of action for the lower court was to decide the defendant’s motion to dismiss solely on the plaintiff’s allegations in the complaint. Since the court could not have determined on the complaint alone whether the defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on this claim, the matter was remanded to the lower court for additional proceedings.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we proudly represent personal injury victims throughout Massachusetts, including on Cape Cod. We understand just how devastating this experience can be for you and your family, and we can fight aggressively to ensure that your rights are asserted at every step of the litigation. Our compassionate and experienced attorneys offer a free consultation to help you understand your rights. Call us now at 508-362-5554 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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