Insurance company denied right to intervene in family court case over common law marriage

Somewhere along the line, without planning to, I became a full-time Katrina blogger.  But after approximately four straight months of writing about little else, I didn’t see much Katrina stuff of interest to write about today.  On a far different subject, however, this post from Ben Stevens of the South Carolina Personal Injury Law Blog caught my eye.   

Ben’s post is about a case where a man named Ronnie Cooper wanted to stack underinsured motorist coverage under a policy issued by GEICO to one Yolanda Goethe.  However, the insurer denied the claim, saying he was not a Class I insured because he was neither Goethe’s spouse nor a resident relative.  It appears GEICO filed a declaratory action to clarify its obligations under the policy, and that Cooper, in response, Cooper brought an action in family court to validate what he says is a common law marriage, with the intention of bolstering his case against the insurer.  GEICO  tried to join or intervene in the family court case, but the judge said no. The South Carolina Supreme Court, over a dissent, upheld the trial court and said GEICO’s interest was too peripheral to give the insurer standing: 

Although the rules of joinder and intervention are to be liberally construed, permitting GEICO to join in a family court action in which it has no real interest stretches beyond liberal construction and creates a situation in which any party with a remotely tangential interest will be allowed to interject themselves into pending litigation.  We do not interpret the rules to allow such manipulation. 

Not as exciting as Scruggs versus State Farm, but interesting nonetheless.  Here’s a link to the case.

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