The Court of Appeals of New Mexico has held that a family’s lawsuit seeking uninsured motorist benefits was barred by claim preclusion. In Pielhau v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., Jared Pielhau was unfortunately killed in a single-vehicle traffic wreck in 2004. At the time of the deadly crash, the vehicle Jared was riding as a passenger in was uninsured and Jared’s parents owned five vehicles that were insured by State Farm through four separate policies. Following the accident, the Pielhaus sought to collect financial compensation as part of the uninsured motorist coverage on two of their vehicles. After State Farm refused to allow the Pielhaus family to stack coverage, the couple filed a lawsuit against their insurer and their insurance agent. That case was later settled and dismissed with prejudice.
In 2011, the Pielhaus sought to recover uninsured motorist coverage from the individual insurance policies that were in effect on each of the family’s remaining three vehicles in 2004. Prior to Jared’s fatal accident, however, the Pielhaus rejected uninsured motorist coverage on each of the three policies. After State Farm failed to respond to the Pielhaus’ request for uninsured motorist compensation, the couple filed a lawsuit for damages in district court. According to the Pielhaus, their rejection of uninsured motorist coverage was invalid pursuant to subsequent New Mexico caselaw.
After filing the second case, the family asked the court to grant a motion for partial summary judgment against State Farm. The trial court granted the motion and the Pielhaus voluntarily dismissed their remaining claims. State Farm then appealed the case to the Court of Appeals of New Mexico.