ILNews

COA: Insurance policy not contrary to code

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A minimum-coverage insurance company's policy language that excludes coverage for leased vehicles in certain circumstances isn't contrary to Indiana Code, the Court of Appeals ruled today.

In the appeal of Safe Auto Insurance Co. v. Enterprise Leasing Company of Indianapolis, et al., No. 01A02-0712-CV-1120, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Enterprise Leasing on Safe Auto Insurance's complaint for declaratory judgment. Safe Auto filed the complaint arguing its policyholder, Jeffrey Harrison, was not driving a covered vehicle when he was involved in an accident with a car he leased from Enterprise, and as a result, he has no coverage under Safe Auto's policy.

The trial court agreed with Enterprise's argument that Harrison's Safe Auto policy coverage for leased vehicles - which only granted liability coverage on a rented car when Harrison's vehicle was being serviced, repaired, stolen, or destroyed - was contrary to Indiana Code Section 27-8-9-9. That statute states in part, "When a claim arises from the operation of a motor vehicle leased under a written lease agreement, if under the agreement the lessee agrees to provide coverage for damage resulting from his operation of the vehicle, then the motor vehicle insurance coverage of the lessee is primary."

Harrison rented a truck from Enterprise to drive to Virginia because he didn't think his own car was dependable enough for the road trip. When he signed the rental agreement, he declined to purchase supplemental liability protection and never provided written proof of insurance coverage for the rented truck. While in Virginia, he was in an accident, which injured those in the other car.

Safe Auto filed a complaint for declaratory relief in Adams County, requesting a judgment that there is no coverage under the Safe Auto policy and the company doesn't have a duty to defend or indemnify Harrison for the accident.

Harrison didn't have coverage under his policy for the truck because the reason he rented wasn't one of the circumstances under which Safe Auto would provide him coverage on a leased vehicle, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

Harrison's Safe Auto policy involving lease coverage doesn't conflict with I.C. Section 27-8-9-9 because this section only applies when the lessee agrees to provide insurance coverage. Because Harrison never agreed in writing to provide insurance himself for the truck and believed Enterprise would provide the insurance, the statute isn't applicable to this case, wrote the judge.

Even if the section applied, Safe Auto's policy isn't unenforceable because the policy language doesn't run afoul of the plain language of the statute and there is no law that requires insurance companies to provide coverage for vehicles leased by their insureds for any reason.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's ruling and remanded.
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  1. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  2. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  3. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  4. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  5. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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