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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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