Everett P. Wilson Jr. and Darla Wilson, Respondents,
Educators Mutual Insurance Association, Petitioner.
Certiorari to the Utah Court of Appeals Fourth District,
Provo The Honorable Samuel D. McVey No. 110400083
Randall R. Smart, Jeffrey A. Callister, Chad P. Curtis, Salt
Lake City, for petitioner
C. Helgesen, Craig Helgesen, Layton, for respondents
M. Regan, Leslie A. Hulburt, San Diego, California, for
Associate Chief Justice Lee authored the opinion of the
Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Justice Durham,
Justice Himonas, and Justice Pearce joined.
ASSOCIATE CHIEF JUSTICE
1 In this case we consider a subrogation action filed by
Educators Mutual Insurance Association (EMIA) against a
tortfeasor in a personal injury case. The court of appeals
dismissed for lack of standing. It held that an insurer may
sue for subrogation only in the name of its insured, not in
its own name. We reverse on the basis of the terms of the
insurance policy in question, which expressly recognize
EMIA's authority "to pursue its own right of
Subrogation against a third party" without regard to
whether the insured "is made whole by any
2 This case arises out of a tragic accident. On September 19,
2010, Jessica Wilson was hit by a car while crossing the
street. She died within hours of the accident, after
incurring more than $100, 000 in medical expenses. Her
insurance provider, EMIA, covered $78, 692.34 of those
3 Four months later Wilson's parents brought a wrongful
death claim against the driver. The parties agreed to settle
the case. The Wilsons agreed to dismiss their claims against
the driver in exchange for payment of his insurance policy
limits ($100, 000).
4 Before the settlement became final, EMIA brought a separate
subrogation suit in its own name against the driver for the
medical expenses it paid on the decedent's behalf.
Recognizing the competing claims in the two cases, all
parties agreed to consolidate them. The driver's insurer
subsequently interpleaded the $100, 000 policy limits. But
EMIA and the Wilsons disputed how to allocate the funds.
5 Following a hearing on that issue, the district court
awarded $24, 182.31 of the interpleaded funds to EMIA and the
remaining $75, 817.69 to the Wilsons. Both parties appealed
the allocation. The Wilsons claimed that EMIA was not
entitled to any of the interpleaded funds. EMIA countered
that it was entitled to a full reimbursement of the coverage
it provided for the decedent.
6 The court of appeals dismissed EMIA's case on standing
grounds. It found no basis in the Utah code or in our case
law for an "independent right . . . for an insurer to
seek subrogated damages in its own name." Wilson v.
Educators Mut. Ins. Ass'n, 2016 UT App 38, ¶ 8,
368 P.3d 471. First, it noted that Utah Code section
31A-21-108 provides only that "[s]ubrogation actions may
be brought by the insurer in the name of its insured."
Id. Second, it cited our decision in Johanson v.
Cudahy Packing Co., 152 P.2d 98 (Utah 1944), for the
proposition that "'it has been generally held that a
suit at law to enforce [a] right of subrogation must, at
common law, be brought in the name of the insured, rather
than by the insurance company in its own name and
right.'" 2016 UT App 38, ¶ 10 (quoting
Johanson, 152 P.2d at 104)).
7 We agreed to hear the case on EMIA's petition for writ
of certiorari. And we review the court of appeals'
decision de novo. State ...