The Idaho Supreme Court has reversed a ruling that granted insurance benefits to the survivors of a Boise woman who was struck and killed by a drunken driver in 2007.
When Patricia Eisenman was killed in November 2007, her children filed a claim with the woman's insurance carrier, Farm Bureau Mutual of Idaho, seeking payment of damages for wrongful death. But Farm Bureau denied the claim for wrongful death damages, arguing that the children were not insureds under the policy.
In May 2010, District Court Judge Michael McLaughlin ruled in favor of the children, ordering Farm Bureau to pay the wrongful death claim, but the insurance company appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court to vacate the judgment.
And in a ruling handed down today, Idaho's high court reversed the original decision in favor of the children. Writing that the deceased Mrs. Eisenman could be the only person who could legally recover wrongful death payments from the underinsured drunken driver but "it was clear once she died she could not recover anything from him."
The woman's policy stated:
"We will pay damages which an insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an underinsured motor vehicle because of bodily injury sustained by an insured and caused by an occurrence."
In today's ruling, Justice Jim Jones wrote, "There is nothing in the policy providing damages for pain and suffering or an insured's lost income after the death of the insured. Only reasonable and necessary medical and funeral expenses incurred within three years from the date of the accident and a death benefit of $5,000 are payable pursuant to the policy because those damages are a matter of contract between the insured and the insurer."