Friday, February 24, 2012

Superior Court rules that insurer was not required to continue relationship with agent begun under CAR

In Calianos v. Commerce Ins. Co., 2012 WL 414464 (Mass. Super.), Judge Fabricant of the Massachusetts Superior Court held than an auto insurer was not liable to an agent when it terminated high risk policies assigned to it under the Commonwealth Automobile Reinsurers (CAR) program, when CAR was replaced by Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Plan (MAIP).

Under the old CAR program, all insurers who wrote auto insurance policies in Massachusetts were required to accept all high-risk applicants for insurance, but they had the option of merely administering the policies and ceding the profits and losses from such policies to the residual market.

An insurance agent who was unable to obtain a voluntary contract with an insurer could apply to CAR to be assigned as an Exclusive Representative Producer, or ERP. CAR appointed each ERP to an insurer.

The Commissioner of Insurance replaced CAR with MAIP, which I discussed in these posts (hit the link and then scroll down). Under MAIP, insurers are assigned, based on their market share, policies issued to high risk drivers, and are required to absorb any losses from those policies. MAIP became effective in 2008.

Under MAIP, agents are no longer assigned on an involuntary basis to insurers. Only agents who are licensed as Assigned Risk Producers, or ARP's, service the high-risk market.

While CAR was still in effect in 2006, CAR assigned insurance agent Jason Calianos as an ERP to Commerce.

In January, 2009, after MAIP replaced CAR, Commerce informed Calianos that he would no longer have authority to solicit or bind new policies and that Commerce would non-renew his existing policies. Commerce then issued notices of nonrenewal to Calianos's customers.

Calianos sued Commerce, alleging that Commerce had amended or terminated its agreement with him without the requisite notice, and that it declined to renew his customers' policies, depriving him of commissions.

The court held:

  • Commerce did not breach Calianos's contract. His CAR contract terminated when CAR was replaced by MAIP.

  • Commerce was not required by MAIP to continue its relationship with Calianos.

  • Commerce did not act in bad faith when it did not renew Calianos's policies on a voluntary basis, because it was not required to do so and never had a voluntary relationship with him.

  • Commerce was not liable for intentional interference with contractual relationships, because Commerce had no contractual duty to renew the CAR policies.

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