Draggin'y Cattle Co. v. Junkermier, Clark, Campanella, Stevens, P.C.Annotate this Case
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court determining that a stipulated settlement entered into by the parties was reasonable, holding that a stipulated settlement entered without the consent of an insurer to resolve litigation between the insured and a third-party claimant will not be presumed reasonable against the insurer when the insurer has been defending the insured throughout the litigation.
The liability insurer in this case provided the insured a defense throughout the relevant proceedings but did not confirm coverage under the policy. The insurer declined to settle with Plaintiffs for policy limits and misrepresented the policy limits. Eventually, Plaintiffs entered into a stipulated settlement with the insured. The insurer intervened to challenge the reasonableness of the settlement. The district court found that the settlement agreement was reasonable, determining that the insurer had effectively abandoned its insured. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a court may approve a stipulated judgment as between a third-party claimant and the insured in the underlying liability case, but the agreement will not be presumed reasonable as to the insurer if the insurer did not participate in the settlement and was providing a defense; and (2) the district court's reasonableness determination was based in part on its conclusion that a presumption of reasonableness applied, requiring reversal.