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Insurer failed to prove driver violated policy clause

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Because a drug test failed to show conclusively when a driver last used marijuana before a fatal crash, an insurer cannot deny payment based on an exclusionary clause in the policy, the Court of Appeals determined.

In Shawn A. Keckler, Kari Felda, Special Admin. to the Estate of Ryan S. Holloway, Janice Norman, Dewayne Scott, Timothy J. Boganwright, et al. v. Meridian Security Insurance Company, No. 43A03-1112-PL-551, a grant of summary judgment in favor of Meridian Security Insurance Company on its declaratory judgment action was appealed.

In 2008, Nathan Creighton was driving, with passengers Shawn Keckler, Bryant Scott and Ryan Holloway as passengers. Creighton attempted to pass a car that stopped in his lane and crashed head-on into a truck driven by Timothy Boganwright. Scott and Holloway were pronounced dead at the scene; Creighton and Keckler sustained brain injuries and have no memory of the crash. Boganwright also was injured.

Police investigating the crash scene discovered that Holloway was in possession of several bags of marijuana and that Creighton was in possession of one bag of marijuana. Police also stated in a crash report that Creighton “also had glassy eyes and appeared very disorderly,” although Creighton was unconscious when police arrived on the scene.

At the time, Creighton’s primary insurer, through his father, was Progressive, with a global policy limit of $500,000. Creighton also was insured under his father’s umbrella policy with Meridian, with a coverage limit of $1 million.

Keckler filed a motion for summary judgment against Meridian, and the other plaintiffs joined in. But Meridian claimed that the crash was not covered, due to an exclusionary clause in the policy that precludes payments for injuries that arise out of the use, sale, manufacture, delivery, transfer or possession of drugs. In support of that claim, Meridian submitted testimony from a toxicologist, but the toxicologist could not determine from a post-crash blood draw when Creighton might have last used marijuana before the crash.

The Court of Appeals concluded that Meridian did not meet its burden on summary judgment of establishing that the exclusionary clause for injuries arising out of the use of marijuana applied in this case. It held that denying insurance coverage would have drastic consequences not only for Creighton, but also for injured parties seeking recompense for the injuries he caused. The COA reversed summary judgment in favor of Meridian and remanded for further proceedings.


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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