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Justices rule on uninsured motorist statute

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In an issue of first impression, the Indiana Supreme Court had to decide whether an insurance company's uninsured motorist policy - which requires the bodily injury be sustained by an insured - violates the state's uninsured motorist statute and is unenforceable. The high court unanimously affirmed summary judgment Wednesday in favor of the insurance company, ruling Indiana Code clearly defines uninsured motorist coverage only for an insured's bodily injury.

In Maggie and Leonard Bush v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., No. 71S03-0810-CV-558, Maggie and Leonard Bush sued State Farm, their insurer, following the death of their adult son in a car accident in which he was a passenger. The Bushes claimed they sustained damages arising out of the conduct of an uninsured motorist and the insurer's failure to provide uninsured motorist benefits was a breach of the insurance contract. State Farm denied coverage because their son didn't live with his parents at the time of the accident and wasn't considered an "insured" under their policy.

The trial court granted summary judgment to State Farm because it ruled their son wasn't covered by the policy because he didn't meet the policy's definition of "relative" and wasn't an insured. The trial court didn't address the Bushes' argument that the company's policy violated the uninsured motorist statute, Indiana Code Section 27-7-5-2.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding the exclusion of coverage for the son violated Indiana statute.

The Supreme Court examined the uninsured motorist statute, which clearly defines uninsured motorist coverage only for the "insured's" bodily injury, and ruled State Farm's policy is consistent with the statute by requiring the insured sustain bodily injury to trigger uninsured motorist coverage, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm.

In addition, the high court's ruling is supported by caselaw, including Ivey v. Massachusetts Bay Insurance Co., 569 N.E.2d 692, 693 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), and Armstrong v. Federated Mutual Insurance Co., 785 N.E.2d 284, 293 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003).

Bodily injury to an insured doesn't cover emotional distress, unless it arises out of bodily touching, which isn't the case here, so the Bushes can't recover under that theory.

Even though this is an issue of first impression here, other states have interpreted their statutes to require injury be sustained by an insured.

"In short, the clear weight of authority from other jurisdictions supports our conclusion that Indiana's uninsured motorist statute requires coverage only for bodily injuries sustained by an insured," wrote Justice Boehm.

Justice Boehm also noted that the couple, in their individual capacities, aren't "legally entitled to recover" damages for their son's death; an Adult Wrongful Death Act claim would have to be filed by the estate.

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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