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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. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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