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Henry v. Cincinnati Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 11, 2019

John HENRY and Darlene Henry, Plaintiffs Below, Appellants,
v.
CINCINNATI INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant Below, Appellee. Charles Fritz, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
Cincinnati Insurance Company, Defendant Below, Appellee.

         Submitted: April 10, 2019

Page 286

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, C.A. No. N18C-03-092, C.A. No. S16C-11-006

         Upon appeal from the Superior Court. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

         Jonathan B. O’Neill, Esquire, and Jennifer D. Donnelly, Esquire, Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz & O’Neill, P.A., Christiana, Delaware, for Appellants, John Henry and Darlene Henry.

         Francis J. Jones, Jr., Esquire (Argued), and Wilson A. Gualpa, Esquire, Morris James LLP, Georgetown, Delaware, for Appellant, Charles Fritz.

         Krista E. Shevlin, Esquire, and William A. Crawford, Esquire (Argued), Franklin & Prokopik, Newark, Delaware, for Appellee, Cincinnati Insurance Company.

         Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and TRAYNOR, Justices.

         OPINION

         VAUGHN, Justice:

Page 287

          I. INTRODUCTION

         This opinion is being issued in two cases that were consolidated for purposes of oral argument, Henry v. Cincinnati Insurance Co., No. 437, 2018, and Fritz v. Cincinnati Insurance Co., No. 565. In Henry, John and Darlene Henry appeal from a Superior Court order granting Cincinnati Insurance Co.’s motion to dismiss.[1] In Fritz, Charles Fritz appeals from a Superior Court order granting summary judgment in favor of Cincinnati Insurance Co. (Cincinnati).[2] Both cases involve employees, John Henry and Charles Fritz, who sustained injuries in automobile accidents while operating an employer-owned vehicle during the course of their employment. In both cases, the accidents were each allegedly caused by a third-party tortfeasor. Both employees received workers’ compensation from their respective employers’ workers’ compensation insurance companies pursuant to Delaware’s Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act).[3] In each case, the vehicle operated by the employee was covered by an automobile liability insurance policy issued to the employer by Cincinnati. In addition to their workers’ compensation benefits, both Henry and Fritz sought to recover underinsured-motorist benefits under the terms of the Cincinnati automobile liability policies. The Superior Court issued its order in Henry first; it found that the exclusive-remedy (or "exclusivity") provision in the Act, 19 Del. C. § 2304, in effect at the time of the accident, precluded Henry from receiving underinsured-motorist benefits under the Cincinnati policy.[4] Following that decision, the Superior Court in Fritz granted Cincinnati’s motion for summary judgment on the same ground, explaining that "[t]he Superior Court follows its prior decisions except for urgent reasons and upon clear manifestation of error."[5]

          Henry and Fritz contend that the Superior Court erred in finding that the Act’s exclusivity provision precludes them from receiving underinsured-motorist benefits through the automobile liability policy their respective employers each purchased from Cincinnati. For the reasons that follow, we agree that the Superior Court erred in both cases. The Act’s exclusivity provision does not prevent an employee from receiving underinsured-motorist benefits provided by an automobile liability policy that his or her employer has purchased from a third-party insurance company.

          II. FACTS AND ...


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