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Court grants transfer to uninsured motorist case

October 16, 2008

The Indiana Supreme Court has granted transfer to a case about whether an insurance company's automobile policy violates the state's uninsured motorist statute.

The issue in Maggie and Leonard Bush v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., No. 71A03-0706-CV-286, is whether State Farm's policy violates the state's uninsured motorist statute because it requires an insured person sustain bodily injury and not just damages because of the conduct of an uninsured driver before uninsured motorist benefits are available.

The Bushes' son was killed in a car accident in New Mexico in which he was the passenger in a car driven by an uninsured motorist. The driver was negligent in the accident. The son didn't live with his parents nor did he have his own auto insurance policy, but the Bushes had a policy with State Farm.

They filed a claim for uninsured motorist benefits to compensate them for the damages they suffered as a result of their son's death; State Farm denied the claim because the son wasn't insured under the policy because he didn't live with his parents at the time of his death. The claim was also denied because the Bushes didn't suffer "bodily injury" as defined under the policy.

The trial court granted State Farm summary judgment on the Bushes' complaint for breach of contract and declaratory judgment. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, with the majority finding State Farm's policy, which purports to limit recovery of uninsured motorist benefits only to situations when the insured sustains bodily injury, violates Indiana's uninsured motorist statute. The majority remanded with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of the Bushes.

Judge Michael Barnes dissented because he didn't believe the Bushes were covered under Indiana's uninsured motorist statute under the set of facts in this case.

The case was granted transfer Oct. 9 but wasn't released until Oct. 15.

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