ILNews

Court grants transfer to uninsured motorist case

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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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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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