Sunday, March 6, 2016

No Personal Jurisdiction Notwithstanding Qualification to Transact Business

No Personal Jurisdiction Notwithstanding Qualification
to Transact Business


In a recent decision from the Kentucky Court of Appeals, it affirmed the trial court's determination that a foreign insurer was and not subject to suit in Kentucky. Taylor v. Bristol West Insurance Company, No.  2014-CA-001648-MR, 2016 WL 675912 (Ky. App. February 19, 2016).

Day Taylor, an Indiana resident, was insured by Bristol West Insurance Company. Taylor was ultimately involved in an auto accident in Jefferson County Kentucky. The other motorist, who was at fault, settled with Taylor for that driver's $25,000 motor vehicle liability policy limit. Thereafter, Taylor filed suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court against Bristol West seeking to recover additional amounts pursuant to the underinsured motorist benefits available under her insurance policy with Bristol West. Bristol answered the complaint, asserting that Kentucky lacked personal jurisdiction over it, specifically:

 Bristol West maintained that it was a foreign corporation, Taylor was an Indiana resident, the policy of motor vehicle insurance was issued to Taylor in Indiana, and the insured vehicles were primarily garaged in Indiana. Bristol West argued that Kentucky did not have personal jurisdiction under its long-arm statute (Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 454.210(2)) and that the action must be dismissed. The only nexus to Kentucky between the parties was that the accident occurred in Kentucky.

 Taylor objected on a variety of grounds including the fact that Bristol West had been issued a certificate of authority to transact the insurance business in Kentucky, that in consequence to holding a certificate of authority Bristol West had appointed the Secretary of State as its agent for service of process (see KRS § 304.3-230(7)) and that Bristol West was also qualified to transact business in Kentucky under the Kentucky Business Corporation Act and the Kentucky Business Entity Filing Act.  She asserted that these contacts gave rise to jurisdiction over Bristol West.

Ultimately the determination of the trial court as to the absence of personal jurisdiction would be upheld.

Reviewing the Kentucky Long Arm Statute and the decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court rendered in Caesar's Riverboat Casino, LLC v. Beach, 336 S.W.3d 51 (Ky. 2011), it was found that the contacts with Kentucky arising out of this fact pattern were insufficient to give rise to personal jurisdiction.  In rejecting jurisdiction, the Court of Appeal wrote:

While the motor vehicle accident occurred in Kentucky, all tort claims related to the accident have been settled. This case looks exclusively to an insurance contract dispute between Bristol West and its insured, Taylor.  

While Bristol West might have qualified to issue insurance in Kentucky, the contract of insurance here at issue was entered into in Indiana. In consequence, KRS § 454.210(7)(a)7 was not applicable to confer jurisdiction.

The court dismissed (“We review any remaining contentions of error as moot or without merit.”) the suggestion that qualification to transact business and the appointment of registered agent, of itself, would give rise to jurisdiction.


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