Insurance agents owe a duty to their customers to obtain the insurance and the coverage limits the customer requests. But when someone is hurt by the actions of the insured, can that person, who is not a party to the contract between the insured and the carrier, sue the agent because there wasn't enough insurance coverage to pay for the damages incurred? That was the question in a recent Ohio case that considered the issue of third-party recovery.

A criminally negligent dump truck driver caused an auto accident in which Lisa Emahiser was killed and her son injured. As claims were pursued, it soon became apparent that the driver's employer, the dump truck company, maintained inadequate commercial carrier insurance coverage under federal and state regulations. In Emahiser v. Complete Coverage Ins. LLP, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio was asked to decide whether the estate of the deceased woman could sue the insurance agency that obtained the company's insurance policy for failing to obtain the correct amount of coverage.

Minimum Required Coverage Limits not Met
At the time of the accident, Rickey Paving, the owner of the truck and the driver's employer, was insured by Progressive Insurance through United Financial Casualty Co. with a policy that capped coverage at $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. Complete Coverage Insurance (CCI), the defendant, was the company's insurance agent, and had obtained coverage from United Financial on the trucking company's behalf. Under applicable federal and Ohio law, Rickey Paving, as an interstate commercial operator, was required to maintain a minimum of $750,000 coverage, which it didn't have.

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