The place plaintiff asserted a defamation declare based mostly on his automotive insurance coverage firm placing an “at fault designation” on a federally regulated database, abstract judgment for defendant insurance coverage firm was affirmed.
Seely v. GEICO Benefit Insurance coverage Firm, No. M2021-01263-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 6, 2023) arose out of a dispute between an insured driver and his insurance coverage firm following a minor automotive accident. The insurance coverage firm decided that plaintiff driver was at fault, and it paid the claims from the injured celebration. Regardless of plaintiff’s assertion that the accident was brought on by brake failure and his submission of receipts for brake work, GEICO put an “at fault designation” on plaintiff’s Complete Loss Underwriting Trade (CLUE) report. Plaintiff’s premiums have been thereafter raised.
In his criticism, plaintiff asserted a number of causes of actions, together with one for defamation. Plaintiff alleged that “[b]y submitting an inaccurate entry in Plaintiffs’ CLUE reviews GEICO broken not solely their driving information however affected their creditworthiness and good names.” Defendant filed a movement to dismiss the defamation declare, which the trial court docket granted, and the Court docket of Appeals affirmed.
The database on which the allegedly defamatory assertion was posted is ruled by the Honest Credit score Reporting Act. In help of its movement for abstract judgment, GEICO relied on 15 USCS § 1681h(e), which states partly that, besides in sure circumstances, “no shopper could carry any motion or continuing within the nature of defamation” with respect to info reported pursuant to sure code sections “besides as to false info furnished with malice or willful intent to injure such shopper.” Defendant argued that as a result of plaintiff “didn’t allege within the criticism and didn’t determine any information to ascertain that GEICO posted the at-fault entry with malice or willful intent to injure Plaintiffs,” plaintiff couldn’t maintain the defamation declare, and the Court docket agreed.
The Court docket quoted the trial court docket’s choice, stating:
Failure to take away an at-fault damage based mostly solely on the assertion by the insured that the motion was not at fault, and never supported by any proof that GEICO had some purposeful intent to hurt these two plaintiffs is inadequate for functions of the movement for abstract judgment, and don’t sink to the extent of non-public hatred, in poor health will, culpable recklessness, a willful and wanton disregard of the rights and pursuits of the plaintiffs.
As a result of plaintiff’s state tort defamation declare didn’t include allegations of “such willfulness,” it was preempted by federal legislation and abstract judgment was affirmed.
This opinion was launched 3 months after oral arguments on this case.
Notice: Chapter 28, Part 1 of Day on Torts: Main Instances in Tennessee Tort Legislation has been up to date to incorporate this choice.
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