Direct Claim Against Insurer of a Tortfeasor
The Rhode Island Supreme Court in Medical Malpractice was guided by a Pennsylvania case, Sands v. Pennsylvania Guaranty Association, 283 Pa.Super. 217, 423 A.2d 1224 (1980).
The Pennsylvania court, interpreting a statute nearly identical to 27-34-12, held that an insured claimant did not have an obligation to exhaust a tortfeasor's insurance coverage prior to seeking reimbursement from the Guaranty Fund because the insured claimant did not have a direct claim against the tortfeasor's insurer.
Our Supreme Court agreed that a claimant does not have a direct claim against the insurer of a tortfeasor until that claim has been reduced to judgment against the tortfeasor Medical Malpractice, 703 A.2d at 1101 (citing Cianci v. Nationwide Insurance Co., 659 A.2d 662, 666 (R.I. 1995), and Auclair v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., 505 A.2d 431 (R.I. 1986)).
The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's reading of 27-34-12, that while a claimant is required to exhaust his or her first-party coverage with an insurer, it is not required to exhaust the third-party claims such a claimant might have against other codefendants.