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Equitable Garnishment, Insurance

It is one thing to receive a monetary judgment from a judge/jury and it is an entirely different thing to be able to collect any money from that judgment. The latter is more difficult than most realize. What can make collection  easier, however, is when an insurance policy is required to cover the liability for the defendant. In cases where there is insurance coverage, the insurance company will usually pay any judgments voluntarily. What happens when they do not?

Under 379.200, RSMo a Judgment creditor may proceed in equity to collect against the insurance company. This is called equitable garnishment. To establish an equitable garnishment claim, the plaintiff must prove that he/she obtained a judgment in his /her favor against the insurance company’s insured, the policy was in effect when the incident occurred and that the injury is covered by the insurance policy. Peck v. Alliance Gen. Ins. Co., 998 S.W.2d 71, 74 (Mo. Ct. App. 1999). The underlying judgment is binding on the insurer because of collateral estoppel. Drennen v. Wren, 416 S.W.2d 229, 233-34 (Mo. Ct. App. 1967).  The plaintiff has the burden of showing by substantial evidence that the claim falls within the coverage provided by the insurance contract. Id. If it wishes to contest the claim, the defending insurance company has the burden of proving that it is relieved from liability due to an applicable exclusion in the policy. Hampton v. Carter Enterprises, Inc., 238 S.W.3d 170, 174 (Mo. Ct. App. 2007).

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