I have a claim for property damage under my client's policy and an uninsured motorist claim. What is the statute of limitations for the property damage claim against my client's carrier?
Answer: It gets kind of complicated. If the policy contains no purported limitation on time to sue, then it is a suit on a contract covered by the five-year statute of limitation of 12 O.S. Sec. 95(1). If it contains a purported limitation of time to sue, then you have to determine where the particular coverage (vehicle collision coverage) falls within 36 O.S. Sec. 3617: "No policy delivered or issued for delivery in Oklahoma and covering a subject of insurance resident, located, or to be performed in Oklahoma, shall contain any condition, stipulation or agreement . . . (3) limiting the time within which an action may be brought to a period of less than two (2) years from the time the cause of action accrues in connection with all insurances other than property and marine and transportation insurances; in property and marine and transportation policies such time shall not be limited to less than one (1) year from the date of occurrence of the event resulting in the loss."
That will sort of scare you lest the collision coverage of a vehicle policy is "property insurance" so as to permit a one-year restriction of time to sue. This raises the question "is collision coverage under an motor vehicle policy "property insurance." I'm afraid it is, under 36 O.S. Sec. 704: "Property insurance" is insurance on real or personal property of every kind and interest therein, against loss or damage from any or all hazard or cause, and against loss consequential upon such loss or damage, other than noncontractual legal liability for any such loss or damage. Property insurance shall also include miscellaneous insurance as defined in paragraph 11 of section 707 of this article . . . ."
However, Wagnon v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Ins. Co., 1956 OK 114, 295 P.2d 790, 792 says "casualty insurance" is subject to the two-year minimum limitation of time to sue: "¶6 So a fire policy, being property insurance,6can be limited to a one-year period in which to file an action. But theft is covered as casualty insurance, which according to § 3617, cannot be limited to less than two years for bringing a court action."
Then we look at 36 O.S. Sec. 707 and find it says: ""Casualty insurance" includes vehicle insurance as defined in Section 706 . . . ."
So, if you (and the court) follow that analysis, the shortest time you should have is 2 years.
However, there's a recent federal case which will give you the willies. It is Hayes v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 855 F.Supp 2d 1291 (W.D. OK 2012). It holds that a one-year limitation of time to sue is applicable to a suit for wind damage under a homeowners policy. I think you avoid that bad result by the analysis above.
I guess the "Readers Digest" version is, if you are within one year, file the suit and avoid the question. If you're beyond the one year but less than two years, be sure you get the suit filed within 2 years, all assuming there is a limitation of time to sue. If there's not, you have 5 years.
Posted on Mon, March 2, 2015
by Travis Law Office filed under