Harvieux v. Progressive, 2018 SD 52:  Plaintiff filed an action under her uninsured motorist insurance (“UM”) coverage with Defendant for injuries she sustained in a car accident.  Plaintiff also filed claims of bad faith and barratry against Defendant.  The UM claim resulted in a jury verdict of $16,296.75; however, after the jury verdict the circuit court granted Defendant’s renewed motion for summary judgment on the bad faith and barratry claims.  Plaintiff appealed thereafter.

The Supreme Court of South Dakota found that while the respective valuations for Plaintiff’s injuries were extremely divergent, the facts viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff failed to show that Defendant did not have a reasonable basis for its valuation.  Moreover, the Court found that since Plaintiff’s injuries were in dispute, Defendant was entitled to challenge Plaintiff’s damages claims.

As to Plaintiff’s claim of barratry, the Court affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal given that Plaintiff had not shown that any actions by Defendant were frivolous or malicious.  Plaintiff’s claim of barratry was based on Defendant’s attempt to enforce a verbal settlement and the Court found that there exists settled law supporting the enforcement of oral settlement agreements.

Lastly, Plaintiff demanded costs and disbursements from Defendant as the prevailing party, which was denied by the circuit court.  The Supreme Court of South Dakota affirmed the denial of such costs, finding that the circuit court has discretion to limit disbursements to a prevailing party in the interests of justice and, therefore, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiff’s application for costs.

Lagler v. Menard, Inc., 2018 SD 53: Claimant suffered a workplace injury while employed by the Defendant.  Plaintiff was awarded a lump sum, permanent-total-disability (“PTD”) compensation but her request for attorney’s fees was denied.  Claimant appealed, and the circuit court affirmed the Department’s decision to award compensation but reversed the decision to award it as a lump sum and reversed the Department’s denial of attorney’s fees.  Both parties appealed the circuit court’s decision.

The Supreme Court of South Dakota first found that the circuit court did not err by affirming the Department’s decision to award the Claimant PTD compensation.  The Court held that Claimant was a resident of Winner and the availability of employment opportunities in Sioux Falls was not relevant; that Claimant did not purposefully leave the Sioux Falls jobs market; that Claimant’s departure was an incidental effect of finding replacement housing that was necessitated by the denial of all workers’ compensation, and, lastly, that Claimant did establish a showing of PTD and a reasonable, good-faith-work-search effort.

As it regards the issue of attorney’s fees, the Court first held that Claimant’s failure to file a notice of review did not deprive the circuit court of jurisdiction to review a particular decision that had been identified in the Defendant’s notice of appeal.  The Court, having reviewed the issue, upheld the circuit court’s decision finding that Defendant’s denial was not based on reasonable cause and that Claimant was entitled to attorney’s fees.

Lastly, the Supreme Court of South Dakota held that the circuit court did not err by reversing the Department’s decision to award a lump-sum payment, finding that such lump-sum payments are disfavored and that the determinative factors did not support such a payment.