Massachusetts Trial Court’s Dismissal of Complaint to Compel Arbitration After Denial of UM Benefits Was Improper – Regis v. Progressive Insurance Company

It’s hardly surprising that disputes between an injured person and the insurance company of a negligent driver who caused an accident can be rather contentious.

Many people, however, assume that cases involving one’s own uninsured motorist carrier would have a less adversarial nature. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true.

Facts of the Case

In the recent unreported case of Regis v. Progressive Insurance Company, the plaintiff was apparently unable to reach an agreement with his insurance company regarding a claim made under his uninsured motorist coverage. He filed suit against the insurer, seeking to compel arbitration of two claims against the insurer.

The insurer filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiff’s complaint was barred by his failure to complete an examination under oath and to provide certain documents. The insurer further urged that the plaintiff’s claim for the insurer’s alleged violation of Mass. Gen. Laws chs. 176D and 93A for unfair trade practices was not subject to arbitration.

The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, noting that his complaint arose from a legal question of insurance and that such an issue was not properly committed to arbitration.

The Opinion of the Appellate Court

On review by a higher court, the trial court’s judgment was vacated, and it was directed to enter an order dismissing only the part of the plaintiff’s complaint that sought arbitration under chapters 176D and 93A. Such dismissal was to be without prejudice, so that the plaintiff could assert that claim in a civil action (rather than through arbitration). According to the court, claims made under the chapters at issue were not within the scope of the insurance policy’s arbitration clause and instead must be decided in a court of law.

With regard to the plaintiff’s claim seeking to compel arbitration of the issue of his entitlement to UM benefits, the court found that the trial court’s dismissal was improper. According to the court, the trial court had acted in error in considering whether or not the insurance company had a valid defense to the plaintiff’s claim regarding its denial of insurance coverage.

Instead, the trial court should have decided the defendant’s Mass. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss purely on the allegations contained in the complaint. Since it could not be determined on the face of the complaint whether the defendant was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law, the matter was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

For Help with a Massachusetts Car Accident Case

If you or a family member has been involved in a car accident, you may need to speak to a lawyer about your right to pursue monetary compensation from the responsible party or, if the other driver was uninsured, your uninsured motorist insurance carrier. To schedule an appointment to discuss your case with an experienced Cape Cod motor vehicle collision attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III at 888-262-6664. We offer free consultations in accident and injury cases at our Hyannis and Plymouth offices.

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