SW Legal Educational Publishing

Take Your Victims as You Find Them for PIP Benefits
Description Trial court properly allowed application of "thin skull" doctrine, that tortfeasors take their victims as they find them, in case of breach of PIP benefits by insurance company. As in tort, the extent of damages are unforeseeable in the PIP contract.
Topic Insurance
Key Words Personal Injury Protection, Breach, Thin-Skull Doctrine, Tort.
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Peiffer was injured in an auto accident for which her State Farm policy provided PIP benefits up to $50,000 for medical expenses. After she received some treatment, Independent Medical Examinations ordered by State Farm indicated that she needed no further treatment, so State Farm refused to make further payments. State Farm claimed that the injuries about which she complained were due to a pre-existing condition. She sued for breach of contract and for the tort of bad faith breach. Jury found in her favor for $10,000 on both claims. State Farm appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The trial court was correct in applying the "thin skull" instruction to the jury which "provides that a negligent defendant is liable for harm resulting from negligent conduct even though the harm was increased by the particular plaintiff's condition at the time of the negligent conduct. In Colorado, it is fundamental that a tortfeasor must accept the victim as the victim is found." This doctrine does generally not apply for breach of contract, but damages for "PIP benefits are analogous to damages arising from the commission of a tort because an insurance contract for PIP benefits always involves an unforeseeable amount of money."
Citation State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Peiffer, 1998 WL 139452 (Sup. Ct., Colo.)
or
955 P.2d 1008 (Sup. Ct., Colo., 1998)

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