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Torres v. State Farm Fire Cas. Co.

Supreme Court of Alabama
Sep 30, 1983
438 So. 2d 757 (Ala. 1983)

Summary

affirming summary judgment entered on behalf of insurer because insured did not reasonably rely on statements of agent

Summary of this case from Waldrup v. Hartford Life Insurance Company

Opinion

82-397.

September 30, 1983.

Appeal from the Circuit Court, Mobile County, Michael F. Zoghby, J.

Robert T. Cunningham, Jr. and Brian P. Philips of Cunningham, Bounds, Yance, Crowder Brown, Mobile, for appellants.

Lucian Gillis, Jr. of Reams, Wood, Vollmer, Philips, Killion Brooks, Mobile, for appellee.


This is an appeal from a summary judgment rendered by the Circuit Court of Mobile County in favor of defendant, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company. We affirm.

For several years prior to the incident in question the plaintiffs, John and Eunice Torres, had purchased their homeowner's and automobile insurance through Clovis Goraum, a State Farm insurance agent. They testified that they relied on Mr. Goraum with regard to their insurance needs. On or about September 12, 1979, Mrs. Torres went to Mr. Goraum's office in connection with an insurance claim related to Hurricane Frederic. She testified in her deposition that "the first words out of my mouth when I went in the door were, `The first thing I want to tell you is that we want flood coverage.'" According to Mrs. Torres, Elizabeth Hawkins, Mr. Goraum's employee, replied, "I'll take care of it." The Torreses admittedly received insurance policies each year from State Farm, but testified that they were unaware that the policies provided no coverage for flood damages.

No further conversations with regard to flood insurance took place between the Torreses and Mr. Goraum's office until the plaintiffs suffered flood damage on May 4, 1981. When Mrs. Torres reported the damage to Mr. Goraum, he told her that she did not have coverage.

The Torreses' complaint against Goraum and State Farm alleged breach of an agreement to secure flood insurance, negligent misrepresentation that flood insurance would be secured, and false misrepresentation that flood insurance would be secured.

State Farm denied that it received any request for flood insurance on behalf of the plaintiffs. It also alleged that it does not sell flood insurance. Such coverage is obtainable only through the National Flood Insurance Program. See 42 U.S.C. § 4001, et seq.

State Farm filed a motion for a summary judgment based on the pleadings, the plaintiffs' depositions, and an affidavit stating that State Farm does not provide flood coverage. The trial court granted the motion and, after making an express determination that there was no just reason for delay, directed entry of final judgment in favor of State Farm. A.R.Civ.P. 54 (b).

A cause of action for misrepresentation exists when the plaintiff relies on a misrepresentation of a material fact and suffers damages as the proximate result of his reliance on the misrepresentation. Section 6-5-101, Code of Alabama. Furthermore, under Alabama law, an insurance company may incur liability as a result of the negligent misrepresentations of its agents. Woodham v. Nationwide Life Ins. Co., 349 So.2d 1110 (Ala. 1977).

Because it is the policy of courts not only to discourage fraud but also to discourage negligence and inattention to one's own interests, the right of reliance comes with a concomitant duty on the part of the plaintiffs to exercise some measure of precaution to safeguard their interests. In order to recover for misrepresentation, the plaintiffs' reliance must, therefore, have been reasonable under the circumstances. If the circumstances are such that a reasonably prudent person who exercised ordinary care would have discovered the true facts, the plaintiffs should not recover. Bedwell Lumber Co. v. T T Corporation, 386 So.2d 413, 415 (Ala. 1980).

"If the purchaser blindly trusts, where he should not, and closes his eyes where ordinary diligence requires him to see, he is willingly deceived, and the maxim applies, `volunti non fit injuria'."

Munroe v. Pritchett, 16 Ala. 785, 789 (1849).

For purposes of a summary judgment, the facts must, of course, be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-movants. Even so, we are not constrained to overrule the trial court. The conversation in question took place in the wake of a major disaster. The employee who told Mrs. Torres that she would "take care of it" no doubt was inundated with work at that particular time generated by claims like the Torreses' related to the hurricane. The plaintiffs relied on the statement for over a year and a half, despite the fact that they never received any premium notice for flood coverage and despite the fact that they received a homeowner's policy each year which did not provide for such coverage. We opine that, under the circumstances, the plaintiffs failed to exercise ordinary diligence in relying for so long on Ms. Hawkins's statement, when they received nothing from State Farm indicating that flood coverage had gone into effect. The failure to procure flood insurance which would have covered the loss was attributable to the plaintiffs' carelessness and neglect rather than to the misrepresentation.

AFFIRMED.

TORBERT, C.J., and JONES, ALMON and ADAMS, JJ., concur.


Summaries of

Torres v. State Farm Fire Cas. Co.

Supreme Court of Alabama
Sep 30, 1983
438 So. 2d 757 (Ala. 1983)

affirming summary judgment entered on behalf of insurer because insured did not reasonably rely on statements of agent

Summary of this case from Waldrup v. Hartford Life Insurance Company

In Torres v. State Farm Fire Casualty Co., 438 So.2d 757 (Ala. 1983), the plaintiffs sued their insurance agent and insurance company for the alleged negligent and false representation that the defendants would provide flood insurance.

Summary of this case from Ramp Operations, Inc. v. Reliance Insurance

In Torres, the plaintiffs specifically told the insurance agent's employee that they wanted flood insurance, and the employee responded by telling the Torreses that she would "take care of it."

Summary of this case from Concrete Metal Forms Inc. v. Cole-Farley Assoc. Inc.

In Torres, the Alabama Supreme Court held that, "[i]n order to recover for misrepresentation, the plaintiffs' reliance must, therefore, have been reasonable under the circumstances. If the circumstances are such that a reasonably prudent person who exercised ordinary care would have discovered the true facts, the plaintiffs should not recover."

Summary of this case from Wheelan v. Sessions

In Torres, the Court explained that `[i]n order to recover for misrepresentation, the plaintiffs reliance must, therefore, have been reasonable under the circumstances. If the circumstances are such that a reasonably prudent person who exercised ordinary care would have discovered the true facts, the plaintiffs should not recover.' 438 So.2d at 759.

Summary of this case from Cook's Pest Ctrl. v. Rebar

In Torres the Court explained that "[i]n order to recover for misrepresentation, the plaintiff's reliance must, therefore, have been reasonable under the circumstances. If the circumstances are such that a reasonably prudent person who exercised ordinary care would have discovered the true facts, the plaintiffs should not recover.

Summary of this case from Gilmore v. M B Realty Co., L.L.C

In Torres, the Court explained that "[i]n order to recover for misrepresentation, the plaintiff's reliance must, therefore, have been reasonable under the circumstances. If the circumstances are such that a reasonably prudent person who exercised ordinary care would have discovered the true facts, the plaintiffs should not recover."

Summary of this case from Massey Automotive, Inc. v. Norris

In Torres, the Torreses argued that when they requested flood insurance on their house an employee of their insurance agent misrepresented to them that "she would `take care of it.'" 438 So.2d at 759.

Summary of this case from Massey Automotive, Inc. v. Norris

In Torres, this Court stated: "Because it is the policy of courts not only to discourage fraud but also to discourage negligence and inattention to one's own interests, the right of reliance comes with a concomitant duty on the part of the plaintiffs to exercise some measure of precaution to safeguard their interests."

Summary of this case from Massey Automotive, Inc. v. Norris

In Torres, we held that "[i]f the purchaser blindly trusts, where he should not, and closes his eyes where ordinary diligence requires him to see, he is willingly deceived, and the maxim applies, `volunti non fit injuria.'"

Summary of this case from Allstate Insurance Co. v. Eskridge

In Torres, we held that `[i]f the purchaser blindly trusts, where he should not, and closes his eyes where ordinary diligence requires him to see, he is willingly deceived, and the maxim applies, "volunti non fit injuria.'"

Summary of this case from Fisher v. Comer Plantation, Inc.

applying "reasonable reliance" standard to affirm summary judgment against plaintiffs who, had they acted reasonably, would have discovered the truth

Summary of this case from Foremost Ins. Co. v. Parham

In Torres, we held that "[i]f the purchaser blindly trusts, where he should not, and closes his eyes where ordinary diligence requires him to see, he is willingly deceived, and the maxim applies, 'volunti non fit injuria'."

Summary of this case from Cornelius v. Austin

In Torres, the plaintiffs brought suit against State Farm Fire Casualty Company for, inter alia, an alleged misrepresentation that flood insurance would be obtained.

Summary of this case from Syx v. Midfield Volkswagen, Inc.

In Torres, the plaintiffs relied for approximately a year and a half on an alleged representation that flood coverage had been obtained.

Summary of this case from Syx v. Midfield Volkswagen, Inc.

In Torres, the circumstances were that, despite the insureds' insistence to the agency that certain coverage be extended, i.e., flood coverage, the successive policies issued for approximately one and one-half years contained no such coverage, and, indeed, the defendant was not in the business of selling such coverage.

Summary of this case from Woodlawn Frat. Lodge 525 v. Comm'l Union Ins. Co.

stating that "[i]f the circumstances are such that a reasonably prudent person who exercised ordinary care would have discovered the true facts, the plaintiff should not recover"

Summary of this case from Roland v. Cooper
Case details for

Torres v. State Farm Fire Cas. Co.

Case Details

Full title:John TORRES, Jr., and Eunice H. Torres v. STATE FARM FIRE CASUALTY…

Court:Supreme Court of Alabama

Date published: Sep 30, 1983

Citations

438 So. 2d 757 (Ala. 1983)

Citing Cases

Massey Automotive, Inc. v. Norris

" One of the earlier formulations of the reasonable-reliance standard was articulated in Torres v. State Farm…

Foremost Ins. Co. v. Parham

This Court had held that if a consumer plaintiff, acting as a reasonably prudent person exercising ordinary…