Since 1947, the Federal Crop Ins. Corp. v. Merrill decision has operated to bar claims of equitable estoppel against agents of the federal government. However, the applicability of the Merrill doctrine to insurers is unclear. There is a split of authority on this significant issue and it remains largely unresolved in numerous jurisdictions. An early trend developed where the courts applied the Merrill doctrine to alleged misrepresentations of agents of the FCIC as well as the agents of private insurers. In the early to mid 2000s, the decisions of three state courts (in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee) declined toe extend the shield of the Merrill doctrine to federally reinsured private crop insurers. Most recently, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in the Skymont Farms v. Federal Crop Ins. Corp. decision revived life into Merrill and held it applied involving a federally reinsured crop insurance policy. This article recommends a rule that could balance both the interests of farmer insureds and federally reinsured private crop insurers in future cases involving the Merrill doctrine. It proposes that 1. a heavy presumption against the application of Merrill to federally reinsured private crop insurers be followed; and 2. that Merrill only apply when a federally reinsured private crop insurer makes a "clear and convincing" evidentiary showing that the farmer insured failed to adequately investigate the provisions concerning a crop insurance policy.
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