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COA: Government vehicle exclusion is void

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The Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today in a matter of first impression that the government vehicle exclusion in underinsured motorist policies is void as against public policy.

The issue arose in Cincinnati Insurance Co. v. James and Jan Trosky, et al., No. 29A02-0902-CV-148, in which Cincinnati argued Indiana substantive law should apply in determining whether government vehicles could be excluded from the definition of underinsured motor vehicle in the policies of the parties involved in the litigation. Courtland Brown, Kyle Trosky, and Kaitlin Culpepper were driving home from Florida in a car owned by Brown's parents. Culpepper was a permissive driver at the time of the accident, in which their car collided with one owned by the Florida Highway Patrol. Trosky was killed and Culpepper was injured.

The families sought excess underinsured motorist coverage from Cincinnati, which provided excess UIM coverage to the Browns; and from State Farm Fire, which provided excess UIM coverage to the Troskys. The trial court applied Florida substantive law to determine the exclusion of government vehicles was void as against public policy. The court granted summary judgment for the Troskys in their motion for summary judgment against Cincinnati and State Farm Fire, and granted Culpepper's motion for partial-summary judgment against Cincinnati.

The appellate court agreed with Cincinnati that Indiana substantive law should have been applied, which hasn't addressed this question. The Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with cases from other jurisdictions that held government vehicle exclusions from the definition of underinsured motorist in insurance polices are void because they are against public policy.

"Our UM/UIM statutes mandate minimum coverage, and the insurance policy exclusions for government-owned vehicles deny coverage, where it is required by statute," wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander. "These exclusions conflict with the express language of the statute by narrowing the definition of underinsured motor vehicles, and are void as against public policy."

The appellate court also agreed with cases from other jurisdictions that held the sovereign immunity defense isn't available to UIM carriers who argue that once the statutory cap has been paid by the governmental unit, the insured is no longer "legally entitled to recover."

The FHP vehicle was underinsured, and the trial court correctly determined Culpepper was entitled to recover from the Cincinnati personal liability umbrella policy, wrote the judge. The appellate court also affirmed the decision that the Troskys could recover under the Cincinnati, State Farm Fire, and their State Farm Auto policy's UIM provisions for Kyle's wrongful death; and that the Troskys should first recover under Kyle's auto policy, and then receive pro rata coverage from Cincinnati and State Farm Fire, wrote Judge Friedlander.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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