Carter v. Progressive Mountain Ins.Annotate this Case
Velicia Carter was injured in an automobile collision with Jeova Oliviera. It was alleged that Oliviera was under the influence of alcohol at the time. Oliviera had an auto liability insurance policy with GEICO General Insurance Company with a $30,000 per person liability limit. Carter was insured by Progressive Mountain Insurance Company, including uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage of $25,000 per person. Carter sued Oliviera and served Progressive as her UM carrier, and entered into a settlement in which GEICO paid the $30,000 limit of Oliviera's policy, and Carter executed a limited liability release. It allocated $29,000 of GEICO's payment to punitive damages and $1,000 to compensatory damages. Progressive answered the suit as Carter's UM carrier and sought summary judgment on the UM claim, which the trial court granted, ruling that, by imposing the condition that $29,000 of the liability coverage limit be allocated to the payment of punitive damages, Carter failed to meet a prerequisite for recovery of the UM benefits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that, by allocating a portion of the payment to punitive damages, rather than allocating all of the payment to compensatory damages, Carter failed to exhaust the limits of Oliviera's liability policy, and, therefore, forfeited the ability to make a claim on her UM policy. The Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals to determine if that Court properly applied the motor vehicle insurance limited liability release provision of OCGA 33-24-41.1. Finding that the Court of Appeals erred, the Supreme Court reversed that Court's judgment.