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COA: Insurance company can't deny coverage

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's decision that an insurance company was estopped from denying coverage to the suspected driver of a car because the company failed to properly preserve its right to deny the driver coverage.

In Founders Insurance Co. v. Virginia Olivares, Linda M. Vara, Daniel R. Farley, AAA Chicago Motor Club Insurance Co., No. 45A04-0712-CV-743, Founders appealed the trial court's declaratory judgment in favor of Virginia Olivares and other appellees, which ruled the insurance company was barred from denying coverage to Daniel Farley because he was an "excluded driver" under the car insurance policy of his mother, Linda Vara.

Vara insured a 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass with Founders, which she co-owned with Farley, who was specifically listed under the policy as an excluded driver. Also included in the policy is liability coverage that extended to any "family member," under which coverage for Farley would fall.

Virginia Olivares was in a car accident in which the driver of the other vehicle - the Cutlass owned by Vara and Farley - was unidentified because he or she fled the scene. Farley later reported the car as stolen. Olivares believed Farley was driving the vehicle at the time and filed suit against Vara, Farley, and AAA. As a result, Founders provided defense counsel to Vara and Farley but later sent unsigned letters without Founders' letterhead to Vara and Farley saying if Farley was found to be driving the Cutlass, defense and indemnification would be withdrawn for him. The letter also misidentified Farley as David Farley instead of Daniel.

After Olivares filed an amended complaint adding a count against Founders, the company filed a counterclaim seeking declaratory judgment that it wasn't obligated to provide coverage to Farley for the accident because he wasn't insured under the policy.

Founders was estopped from raising the defense of non-coverage because it had sufficient knowledge of facts that would have permitted it to deny coverage, Founders assumed the defense of Farley without obtaining an effective reservation of rights agreement, and Farley suffered some type of harm or prejudice as a result, wrote Judge Carr Darden.

Founders claimed the unsigned letters it mailed to Vara and Farley properly preserved its right to later rely on the "excluded driver" defense, but the company provided no evidence to confirm Vara or Farley ever received the letters, wrote the judge.

And, because there was no proper reservation of rights by Founders as to the "excluded driver" defense, Farley wasn't aware at the time he accepted defense counsel from Founders that the company would later deny coverage if it found he were the driver of the Cutlass. As such, Farley couldn't make an intelligent choice between retaining his own counsel and accepting Founder's defense counsel, Judge Darden wrote.

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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