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Weekly Summary of Alaska Supreme Court Opinions

There were three reported decisions issued by the Alaska Supreme Court this week.

In Wooten v. Hindon, an insurer had defended the insured under a reservation of rights, and the insured had retained its own counsel. The plaintiff settled with the defendant’s insurer. When the plaintiff attempted to dismiss the case with prejudice, because of its settlement with the defendant’s insurer, the defendant objected, and argued that it (the defendant/insured) was the prevailing party and should be awarded attorney’s fees. The Alaska Supreme Court rejected this argument, unsurprisingly finding that payment by the insurer to the plaintiff in complete settlement of the plaintiff’s claims against the insured meant that the insured was not the prevailing party.

In Progressive Casualty Ins. Co. v. Skin, the Alaska Supreme Court considered whether an automobile insurance policy covered the son of an insured for liability arising out of an accident that happened when the son was operating an ATV. Applying well-recognized principles of insurance contract interpretation, the court held that the policy’s liability coverage covered only accidents involving automobiles and trucks, and excluded coverage for accidents involving ATVs. The court, however, also held that the son was entitled to coverage under the policy’s medical payments provisions, as that part of the policy did not clearly exclude coverage for accidents that occurred while operating an ATV. The court held that the language in the medical payments provision of the policy was inconsistent with the language of in the policy’s liability coverage provision, and that inconsistency should be construed in favor of coverage.

Finally, in Brotherton v. State, Dept. of Revenue, CSSD, the Alaska Supreme Court considered the proper amount of child support to award in a child custody case.