Kentucky Appeals Court Affirms Summary Judgment Order in Motorcycle Accident Case

by Mandy Hicks

The Kentucky Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s decision in favor of an automobile insurer in a motorcycle wreck case. In Black v. Nationwide General Insurance Co., a woman was hurt in a crash while riding as a passenger on her husband’s motorcycle in 2010. The same motorcycle was apparently damaged in a 2008 collision and placed in storage. Between 2008 and 2010, the couple allowed both the registration and insurance on the vehicle to lapse. About two weeks before the woman was hurt, her husband repaired the motorcycle, but he did not register it or resume insurance coverage. On the date of the accident, the couple reportedly rode the motorcycle around the block. While doing so, the motorcycle collided with another vehicle that allegedly drove into the path of the couple. Following the crash, the woman was treated for spinal cord injuries.

At the time of the motorcycle accident, the couple carried an automobile insurance policy on two other passenger vehicles. The policy included both underinsured motorist and personal injury protection coverage. Nearly two years after the motorcycle crash, the woman filed a lawsuit against her automobile insurer, seeking to collect compensation for her damages in excess of those paid by the at-fault motorist’s insurance company. The woman’s insurer countered that the couple’s insurance policy did not cover the motorcycle. In addition, the insurer claimed the clear and unambiguous terms of the auto policy excluded coverage for injuries sustained while using any vehicle owned by or available for the regular use of the couple that was not insured by the company.

Next, the insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment with the Jefferson Circuit Court. A motion for summary judgment is filed when there is no material issue of fact in dispute, and the moving party believes it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Normally, a court must consider such a motion in the light that is most favorable to the non-moving party. After reviewing the facts of the case, the Circuit Court granted the insurer’s motion and dismissed the woman’s lawsuit. In response, she filed an appeal with the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

The woman argued before the appellate court that the Circuit Court should not have granted her auto insurer’s motion for summary judgment because material facts were still in dispute. According to the woman, the doctrine of reasonable expectations required that coverage be extended to her motorcycle accident harm because the insurance company failed to define “regular use” in the policy. The doctrine of reasonable expectations states an insured individual is entitled to receive the insurance coverage he or she reasonably expects to attain unless the policy language demonstrates a “plain and clear manifestation” of the insurer’s intent to exclude coverage. In addition, any ambiguities in policy language are typically construed against the insurer.

After examining the terms of the couple’s automobile insurance policy, the court held that the definition of “regular use” was not relevant because the policy also clearly and unambiguously excluded coverage for any additional vehicles owned by the insureds. Since the Kentucky Court of Appeals found that the Circuit Court did not commit error, the appellate court affirmed the summary judgment order.

If you were injured or a close family member was killed in a Kentucky motorcycle collision, the caring lawyers at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP may be able to help. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, do not hesitate to call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP at (270) 781-6500 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Black v. Nationwide General Insurance Co., KY: Court of Appeals 2014