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Auto–LiabilitySullivan v Allstate Insurance Company(Ind. App. Feb. 10, 2006)

Ruling: The estate of the driver fatally injured in a motor vehicle accident brought suit against passenger of offending vehicle, among others. The passenger’s automobile insurer brought a declaratory judgment action against the estate, seeking a declaration that it was not obligated to defend or indemnify the passenger in the underlying action. The passenger’s policy provided insurance for damages caused by the passenger’s use of a “non-owned auto,” defined as an “auto used by you.” The court reaffirmed that the passenger was not “using” the offending vehicle when the accident occurred since he was merely a passenger in it.

Rohlin v Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company(N.Y. App., 4th Dept., Feb. 3, 2006)

Ruling: Passenger injured in motor vehicle accident brought suit against the operator and owner of the vehicle. The operator sought coverage from her own automobile insurer, as well as the owner’s policy. The operator’s insurer denied coverage on the ground that the she was operating a vehicle owned by a member of her household when the accident occurred. The injured passenger brought suit against the operator’s insurer. The court held that the term “household” as used in the policy was ambiguous and that the trier of fact should resolve the issue of whether the owner was a member of the operator’s household.

Auto–Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist CoverageIn Re Eagle Insurance Company v Gueye(N.Y. App., 1st Dept., Feb. 7, 2005)

Ruling: The allegedly injured motorist demanded arbitration with his uninsured motorist carrier, after the offending vehicle’s carrier disclaimed coverage. The offending vehicle’s carrier rejected the claim for bodily injuries on the ground that the claimant’s injuries were not caused by an accident but rather an “intentional act,” and also because unspecified policy violations by the owner and driver of the offending vehicle had resulted in a policy disclaimer. The primary reason for the disclaimer was that the collision was staged. The court found that since the offending vehicle’s insurer was entitled to disclaim coverage of the claimant’s injuries on the ground that they were not the result of an accident, there could be no recovery for the same injuries under the uninsured motorist endorsement of claimant’s policy.

Klieber v. State Farm Insurance Co.(Super. Ct. N.J. Feb. 2, 2006) (Unpublished)

Ruling: The plaintiff’s argument, speculating that she would have elected $100,000/$300,000 if she had been advised to change her residence from Florida to New Jersey, was without factual support. Plaintiff had been residing in Florida, where she purchased here policy. Under Florida law, UIM coverage is not required, but must be offered. Plaintiff declined to purchase the coverage. Plaintiff then moved to New Jersey for a year, possibly longer. At the advice of her insurance agent, she kept her Florida insurance. New Jersey, unlike Florida, requires $15,000/$30,000 in UIM coverage be purchased, with the option to buy $100,000/$300,000 offered. The plaintiff was in an accident in New Jersey with an uninsured vehicle. New Jersey’s deemer statute, N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.4 made the Florida policy contain the $15,000/$30,000 limits, but plaintiff asserted that if she had been offered New Jersey coverage, she would have purchased the higher limits. The court rejected the plaintiff’s assertion.

Information compiled by Kevin T. Merriman of Goldberg, Segalla L.L.P. Web site: www.goldbergsegaooalcom.


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