South Carolina Lawyer
Vol. 13, No. 1, Pg. 29.
Viewpoint Revisiting Shores v. Weaver: Are We Becoming Too Pro-Insured?
29Viewpoint Revisiting Shores v. Weaver: Are We Becoming Too Pro-Insured?By Kirby D. Shealy IIIIn 1993, the South Carolina Court of Appeals issued a seemingly innocuous automobile insurance coverage opinion, the likes of which appear frequently in the advance sheets with little or no fanfare. However, the opinion rendered in Shores v. Weaver, 315 S.C. 347, 433 S.E.2d 913 (Ct. App. 1993) completely changed the automobile insurance claims landscape in South Carolina, much to the chagrin of claims handlers and defense lawyers throughout the state. It held that an automobile insurer is responsible to pay any judgment rendered against its insured, up to the minimum limits required by the Financial Responsibility Act, even if the insurer's first notice of a pending lawsuit is receipt of the order ofjudgment.
For those who practice in the area of personal injury law, Shores had a monumental effect on the way many claims are pursued. Many plaintiff's attorneys no longer send the traditional courtesy copy of the summons and complaint to the defendant's liability carrier upon filing suit. This practice has fomented a sense of distrust among plaintiff's attorneys and claims representatives and strikes many as deceitful and underhanded. Notwithstanding this negative perception, Shores can be read to create a duty upon the attorney not to reveal to the carrier the fact that suit has been commenced without obtaining a client's consent. Otherwise, the attorney gratuitously surrenders a distinct advantage held by her client, which might be viewed as a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or even outright malpractice.
Often, the question of whether and when a plaintiff decides to file suit against a particular insured remains a mystery to the claims adjuster until long after the suit has fallen into default because many insureds do not understand their obligation to turn over suit papers to their insurance company after service. At present, it is not unusual for a claims adjuster to open a letter from a claimant's attorney months after settlement negotiations have stalled, only to find an order of judgment by default and a demand for the statutory minimum policy limits.
Although there are no figures to...