Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company v. Brandon W. DeBruce

Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company v. Brandon W. DeBruce
E2017-02078-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a plaintiff with a personal injury claim who has challenged the validity of a declaratory judgment involving the defendant tortfeasor and his insurer because the personal injury plaintiff was not made a party to the declaratory judgment action. The personal injury plaintiff brought an action for damages against the defendant tortfeasor in December 2013 in Hamilton County, prior to the filing of the instant declaratory judgment action, based upon an automobile accident that occurred in December 2012. The defendant tortfeasor in the personal injury action reportedly failed to notify his insurance company of the lawsuit or cooperate with his insurance company regarding an investigation into the accident, which allegedly amounted to a breach of the automobile insurance policy between them. In March 2015, the insurance company filed the instant action in the Bradley County Chancery Court against the defendant tortfeasor, seeking a declaratory judgment that the insurance company had no duty to defend or indemnify the defendant tortfeasor based on his alleged breach of the insurance contract. In June 2015, the Bradley County Chancery Court entered a declaratory judgment against the defendant tortfeasor, holding that the insurer had no duty to defend or indemnify him. In June 2017, the personal injury plaintiff filed a petition to set aside that declaratory judgment pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02, alleging that she was a missing indispensable party to the declaratory judgment action and requesting to intervene therein. Following a hearing, the Bradley County Chancery Court denied the personal injury plaintiff’s petition. The personal injury plaintiff has appealed. Having determined that the personal injury plaintiff had a sufficient interest in the declaratory judgment action and was therefore an indispensable party, we set aside the underlying declaratory judgment as void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Authoring Judge: 
Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Originating Judge: 
Judge Jerri S. Bryant
Date Filed: 
Thursday, August 9, 2018