ILNews

Insurer failed to prove driver violated policy clause

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Because a drug test failed to show conclusively when a driver last used marijuana before a fatal crash, an insurer cannot deny payment based on an exclusionary clause in the policy, the Court of Appeals determined.

In Shawn A. Keckler, Kari Felda, Special Admin. to the Estate of Ryan S. Holloway, Janice Norman, Dewayne Scott, Timothy J. Boganwright, et al. v. Meridian Security Insurance Company, No. 43A03-1112-PL-551, a grant of summary judgment in favor of Meridian Security Insurance Company on its declaratory judgment action was appealed.

In 2008, Nathan Creighton was driving, with passengers Shawn Keckler, Bryant Scott and Ryan Holloway as passengers. Creighton attempted to pass a car that stopped in his lane and crashed head-on into a truck driven by Timothy Boganwright. Scott and Holloway were pronounced dead at the scene; Creighton and Keckler sustained brain injuries and have no memory of the crash. Boganwright also was injured.

Police investigating the crash scene discovered that Holloway was in possession of several bags of marijuana and that Creighton was in possession of one bag of marijuana. Police also stated in a crash report that Creighton “also had glassy eyes and appeared very disorderly,” although Creighton was unconscious when police arrived on the scene.

At the time, Creighton’s primary insurer, through his father, was Progressive, with a global policy limit of $500,000. Creighton also was insured under his father’s umbrella policy with Meridian, with a coverage limit of $1 million.

Keckler filed a motion for summary judgment against Meridian, and the other plaintiffs joined in. But Meridian claimed that the crash was not covered, due to an exclusionary clause in the policy that precludes payments for injuries that arise out of the use, sale, manufacture, delivery, transfer or possession of drugs. In support of that claim, Meridian submitted testimony from a toxicologist, but the toxicologist could not determine from a post-crash blood draw when Creighton might have last used marijuana before the crash.

The Court of Appeals concluded that Meridian did not meet its burden on summary judgment of establishing that the exclusionary clause for injuries arising out of the use of marijuana applied in this case. It held that denying insurance coverage would have drastic consequences not only for Creighton, but also for injured parties seeking recompense for the injuries he caused. The COA reversed summary judgment in favor of Meridian and remanded for further proceedings.


 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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