Some of you may recall this post from last month about the Palmer v. State Farm case in federal court in Mississippi, in which I expressed some confusion as to the apparent differences between State Farm’s position in that case on the effect of its anti-concurrent policy language, and its stated position in other cases.
So what is the right position? The one in the other cases. Here is a pdf of a State Farm motion to alter or amend Judge Senter’s memorandum opinion denying State Farm’s earlier motion to dismiss in Palmer. The new motion, in essence, clarifies that the earlier assertions of State Farm’s position in the Palmer motion to dismiss were not consistent with the company’s real position and were in error. Even though the new motion does not seek to change the result of Senter’s ruling, but only amend it to reflect what the insurer says is its true position on the anti-concurrent language, the Palmers are having none of it and oppose the motion, calling it "blatantly disingenuous." Here is a pdf of their response brief.
Again, as you may recall, I wrote a short piece about the anti-concurrent language including a mention of the Palmer case for RiskVue, and you can see what I wrote at a link at this post. I also have mentioned that I am working on a much longer piece about anti-concurrent language in insurance policies, with a focus on Katrina litigation, that will appear in another venue not too far in the future.
I consider few things in insurance coverage more stupifyingly complex than issues involving causation, and that is saying something in a field with more than its fair share of issues that can twist your brain into a pretzel. I have spent an enormous amount of time researching and working on this future article, and one of the amazing things about so-called concurrent causation is that hardly anyone can agree on what it is, much less on the right way to analyze it in the context of insurance contract interpretation, and still less on what the proper result should be. This takes me back to my law school days when Prosser and Keeton’s famous chapter on Proximate Causation was assigned reading in Torts class, and I read it something like 11 or 12 times trying to figure it out, leading my friends to conclude I had lost my mind. I got an A in the class, so I think I understood it at least in part. As a work of legal philosophy, the chapter has few parallels, and it even has a certain degree of humor about it. Far from being unapproachable, it attempts to bring abstraction down to concrete reality and practicality as best it can. The authors probably have done a better job of explaining the concepts of causation in the law than anyone else ever has, and yet the chapter seems written with the melancholy understanding that if you asked 100 people who had just read it what the chapter said, you would get 50 different answers, and the other 50 people would either laugh in your face or just look at you and walk away.