Friday, April 23, 2010

Massachusetts Appellate Division holds that insured may not recover against tortfeasor after receiving uninsured motorist coverage award

In Johnson v. Lapan, 2010 WL 1170254 (Mass. App. Div.), claimant Sylanda Johnson was injured when she was a passenger in a car that collided with a vehicle operated by Marc Lapan.

Johnson pursued two routes of recovery: she submitted a claim for uninsured motorist coverage to ELCO, the insurer of the vehicle in which she was a passenger, and she filed suit against the Lapans.

The uninsured motorist claim went to arbitration and Johnson was awarded $16,791.24 for pain and suffering and medical expenses.

The Massachusetts Appellate Division held that the doctrine of issue preclusion required that Johnson's claim against the Lapans be dismissed. The arbitrator had awarded to Johnson damages for her injuries, and that award fixed the damages in the suit against the Lapans arising from the same injuries. Johnson could recover such damages pursuant to an uninsured motorist policy (which she did) or from the tortfeasor, but not from both. Otherwise she would receive a double recovery.

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