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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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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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