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Tennessee Laches: Do not wait too long to file | Legal insurance blog about property insurance



It is no secret that insurance claims take time, and depending on the damage, it may take even longer to settle these claims. One of the tactics used by insurance companies is the affirmative defense of laches, which is a doctrine based on fair estoppel.

Their argument is that the insured waited too long to file, which is unfair to the insurance company. In Tennessee, the insurance company must prove (1) an unforgivably long delay caused by the plaintiff's negligence in claiming this in order for this lacher defense to succeed. and (2) damage to the rights of others as a result of this delay. 1

The landmark for laches is Brown v. Ogle because it provides a robust discussion of how the Tennessee courts should analyze the defense, as well as provide the narrow cases where such defenses succeeded. blog post:

Tennessee courts have long agreed that "insurance is basically a contract." 3

Although Brown is rooted in contract law, it remains as the valuable case in this matter when applied to property insurance.

Laches is a complicated legal doctrine because it presents a mixed question of both law and facts. Whether the above elements, negligent excusable delay and consequential damage, are met is a matter of fact. whether "it would be unfair or unfair of the defendant to enforce the appellants' right [] is a matter of law", for judicial review. 4 Unfortunately, this legal issue is relative to the individual judge who "[n] o hard and fast rule for its [laches] application can be formulated." 5 In Brown the Court noted that:

Relief is generally denied by courts of justice, due to elapsed time, only in cases where loss of evidence, witnesses or parties death, and memory errors that result in the concealment of facts of the defendant's prejudices, make the uncertainty of the truth and make it impossible for the court to pronounce a decree with confidence. 6

The Court also noted that the defense of laughter is successful when the excuses listed are inadequate and more tactical in nature. The essence of laches is that it is a fair cure; therefore, justice and fairness play an important role in the Court's analysis.

The doctrine of laughter in the courts of justice is not an arbitrary or technical doctrine. Where it would be practically unfair to grant a remedy, either because the party through its conduct has done so that it can justly be considered equivalent to a waiver of it, or where he, through his conduct and negligence, may not refrain from this remedy , but still put the other party in a situation where it would not be reasonable to place him if the measure were to be invoked later, in any of these cases the time lapse is most material. 7 [1

9659007] When it is appropriate to bring an action, it is not always easy to determine, but one should be aware of this defense of insurance companies that can prevent recovery. When policyholders think it may be time to sue, they should not wait too long to reach out.
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1 Cincinnati Ins. Co. v Malone 2016 WL 58889 (Tenn. Ct. App., October 7, 2016).
2 Brown v. Ogle 46 SW3d 721 (2000).
3 Jamie Glass, Tennessee Court Interpretation of Insurance Contracts PROPERTY INS. COVER BLOG (December 30, 2020), https://www.propertyinsurancecoveragelaw.com/2020/12/articles/insurance/tennessee-court-interpretation-of-insurance-contracts/, citing Allstate Ins. Co. v.Tarrant 363 SW3d 508, 527 (Tenn. 2012) (Koch, J., deviating).
4 Brown v. Ogle 46 SW3d at 726.
5 Id.
6 Id. at 727.
7 Nicholson v. Holt 174 Tenn. 358, 125 S.W.2d 483 (1939), citing Lindsay Petroleum Co. v. Hurd L.R. 5 P.C. 221, 239–40 (1874).


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