The sole question presented by this appeal is whether the uninsured motorist statute, §§ 56-1148 through 56-1153 T.C.A. authorizes an insured to bring suit on the casualty policy directly against the insurer. The trial judge held on demurrer this could not be done. The insured has appealed and assigned this as error. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
The Glovers sued Tennessee Farmers alleging that they were insured by four policies of liability insurance issued by that company, and that under the uninsured motorist endorsement they were entitled to recover for serious personal damage sustained by Vera K. Glover, and for loss of services and medical and other related expenses by William Howard Glover, her husband, in a collision with one Ralph Murphy, an uninsured motorist, who negligently caused the collision.
Tennessee Farmers filed what was in effect a plea in abatement and a demurrer, the two grounds amounting to a demurrer making the proposition that the Glovers had no right to bring an action directly against it for uninsured motorist benefits. This demurrer was sustained and we now have the case on the single question first mentioned.
As stated, we are of opinion the trial court properly disposed of the case, for reasons which we shall state.
It should first be noted that, although the suit is brought against Tennessee Farmers as a result of the uninsured motorist endorsement, the right to sue the insured directly is not sought to be sustained by any provision in the insurance policy. There is no allegation in the declaration that the policies contain any stipulation authorizing a direct suit. And, in fact, the insurance policies are not even before the Court. The right to sue the insurer directly is predicated entirely on the contention that this is authorized by the uninsured motorist statute.
We take it to be fundamental in a case where, because of the terms of the insurance contract there is no right to sue
The first such provision is that made by § 56-1153. This code section invalidates insurance contract provisions for arbitration of uninsured motorist claims, and sets out the course of procedure whereby an insured can reduce an uninsured motorist claim to judgment.
This conclusion, that § 56-1153 provides the sole court remedy, is sustained by the further provision of the code section "that the evidence of service upon the insurance carrier shall not be made a part of the record". Here we have clear evidence of a legislative intention that the fact of insurance cannot be interjected as a prejudicing factor in uninsured motorist litigation.
So, we ask, if the language used to set up the procedure is expressly limited so as not to permit the fact of insurance to appear, how can it be said with any reasonableness that two or three words can be picked out of the statute and given the effect of permitting a suit directly against the insurer; whereby the very condition expressly provided against will be the more evident? The answer must be given such an interpretation.
Another statute provision indicating an intention contrary to that insisted upon by the Glovers is § 56-1151.
Finally, there is the provision in § 56-1148
This interpretation of the act will not, as the Glovers argue, require a suit against the insurance company after recovery of a judgment against the uninsured motorist. It is clear that when the requirement of § 56-1153, with respect to affording the insurance carrier the right to defend the uninsured motorist is complied with, the insurance carrier is bound by the judgment. The whole intent and purpose of the uninsured motorist act, is, in essence, to provide protection by making the insurance carrier stand as the insurer of the uninsured motorist, with two necessary consequences. (1) The suit has to be brought against the uninsured motorist, with the fact of insurance excluded as a possible prejudicing factor, as in any other such case; and (2) the insurance company is bound by the judgment rendered in that suit, to the extent of its policy limits, where it is afforded the statutory opportunity to defend the uninsured motorist. See Holt v. Bell, Okl., 392 P.2d 361; Boughton v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, Okl., 354 P.2d 1085, 79 A.L.R.2d 1245; Moore v. Smith, 177 Va. 621, 15 S.E.2d 48; Hartford Acc. & Ins. Co. v. Worden-Allen Co., 238 Wis. 124, 297 N.W. 436.
In deciding this case consideration has been given to the numerous authorities cited on both sides. Some of these cases support the Glovers,
The cases relied on by the insurance carrier are more in point, because they deal with statutes more nearly like ours. But, since in statute construction cases we must depend, finally, upon our own interpretation of the statute, we shall not lengthen this opinion by particular reference and citation from these cases, nor attempt to distinguish those we do not follow. We do wish to point out however, that Hickey v. Insurance Company of North America, E.D.Tennessee (1965), D.C., 239 F.Supp. 109, cited by the Glovers, was decided prior to the enactment of our uninsured motorist act, in 1967, and so has no application to this case; and that the only other case construing Tennessee law on this subject,
The assignments of error are overruled and the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
DYER, C. J., and CHATTIN, CRESON and McCANLESS, JJ., concur.
"The uninsured motorist provision shall not require arbitration of any claim arising thereunder nor shall the insured be prevented in any manner from employing legal counsel or instituting legal proceedings."