2005 Missouri Revised Statutes - § 375.420. — Vexatious refusal to pay claim, damages for, exception.

375.420. In any action against any insurance company to recover the amount of any loss under a policy of automobile, fire, cyclone, lightning, life, health, accident, employers' liability, burglary, theft, embezzlement, fidelity, indemnity, marine or other insurance except automobile liability insurance, if it appears from the evidence that such company has refused to pay such loss without reasonable cause or excuse, the court or jury may, in addition to the amount thereof and interest, allow the plaintiff damages not to exceed twenty percent of the first fifteen hundred dollars of the loss, and ten percent of the amount of the loss in excess of fifteen hundred dollars and a reasonable attorney's fee; and the court shall enter judgment for the aggregate sum found in the verdict.

(RSMo 1939 6040, A.L. 1975 H.B. 93)

Prior revisions: 1929 5929; 1919 6337; 1909 7068

(1960) Missouri vexatious delay statute held inapplicable to declaratory judgment action brought by an insurance carrier. Hawkeye Security Insurance Co. v. Davis, 277 F.2d 765.

(1960) Award of damages for vexatious refusal to pay life insurance sustained. Western Life Ins. Co. v. White (A.), 331 S.W.2d 19.

(1960) In action against surety on notary's bond for damages for fraudulently affixing his jurat on an application for transfer of motor vehicle title containing statements as to ownership he knew to be false, relator could recover only nominal damages where notary's actions were not the proximate cause of injury and judgment denying recovery of damages and attorneys' fees under vexatious refusal to pay statute was proper. State ex rel. Koste v. Maryland Casualty Co. of Baltimore (A.), 335 S.W.2d 510.

(1961) On transfer to Supreme Court, held that notary's act of affixing false jurat was an inseparable and essential part of his fraudulent scheme as used car dealer and was one of several proximate causes of relator's loss. Judgment of trial court affirmed including denial of recovery under vexatious refusal to pay statute. State ex rel. Koste v. Maryland Casualty Co. of Baltimore (Mo.), 344 S.W.2d 55.

(1961) Where there is a clear question of fact determinative of the insurer's liability and nothing in the evidence indicating bad faith in connection with the refusal to pay, no penalty or attorney fee should be allowed under this section. Rohlfing v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. (A.), 349 S.W.2d 472.

(1961) No recovery under this statute can be had for vexatious refusal to pay where there is a bona fide dispute over the existence or extent of liability. Loulos v. United Security Insurance Company (A.), 350 S.W.2d 87.

(1961) No recovery under this statute can be had for vexatious refusal to pay where the insured seeks the recovery of more than that to which he is entitled. Cross v. Peerless Ins. Co. (A.), 351 S.W.2d 826.

(1961) This statute applies to suits brought on surety bonds on public works contracts but the penalty prescribed it to be assessed only when the refusal to pay is without reasonable or proper cause. In this case the penalty should not have been imposed. Phoenix Assurance Co. of New York v. Appleton City, 296 F.2d 787.

(1962) Penalty provision is to be strictly construed, as refusal to pay must be willful and without reasonable cause as the facts appeared to a reasonable and prudent man before the trial not merely because the judgment, after trial, is adverse to the insurer. King v. Empire Insurance Company (A.), 364 S.W.2d 40.

(1964) Imposition of penalty under this section held proper although open question of law may have existed as to whether insureds had insurable interest where insurer failed to return premiums, failed to inform insureds as to reason for refusal to pay under fire policies and where it could be concluded that insurers were seeking a basis for refusal and finding no other, finally in defending action relied on lack of insurable interest. Still v. Travelers Indemnity Company (Mo.), 374 S.W.2d 95.

(1971) In order to recover the statutory penalty for vexatious refusal and attorney's fees, it is not necessary to show affirmatively that the delay was vexatious, but only that the evidence and circumstances of the case are sufficient to justify the conclusion that the refusal was vexatious. Handly v. Lyons (A.), 475 S.W.2d 451.

(1973) Statute of limitations defense is an "open question of law" and refusal to pay could not, to a legal certainty, be considered vexatious. Crenshaw v. Great Central Insurance Co. (CA Mo.), 482 F.2d 1255.

(1973) Held that insured must produce evidence of willful and persistent refusal without probable cause as the facts would appear to a reasonable and prudent person before trial to sustain a finding of vexatious refusal. Request of loan receipt to protect right of subrogation of carrier does not constitute vexatious refusal. Howarth v. Druggists Mutual Insurance Co. (CA Mo.), 485 F.2d 34.

(1974) Decision to award penalty and attorney's fee is purely discretionary with trier of facts. Morris v. Reed (A.), 510 S.W.2d 234.

(1974) This section covers surety bonds and evidence held to support finding of vexatious refusal. Housing Authority of City of Clinton v. Baumann (A.), 512 S.W.2d 436.

(1975) Denial of liability under a fire insurance policy without stating any ground for denial is sufficient to warrant submission of issue of vexatious refusal. Hounihan v. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Mo. (A.), 523 S.W.2d 173.

(1975) Held this section applies to actions brought on title insurance policies. Cope v. McClain (A.), 529 S.W.2d 6.

(1986) Actions under sections 375.296, 375.420 and 376.620, RSMo, against a self-insured welfare benefit trust held to have been preempted by provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, section 1144 of title 29, United States Code. Hoeflicker v. Central States, Etc., Health & Welfare, 644 F.Supp. 195 (W.D. Mo.).

(2000) Plain language of statute does not preempt a tort claim for defamation. Overcast v. Billings Mutual Insurance Co., 11 S.W.3d 62 (Mo.banc).

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