Kentucky Court of Appeals Overturns Summary Judgment In Which Spouse Rejected Uninsured Motorist Coverage

by Mandy Hicks

In Boarman v. Grange Indemnity Ins. Co., a man was seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision when another motorist ran a red light and collided with his vehicle. Unfortunately for the injured man, both the driver and the vehicle that struck him were not insured at the time of the accident. Despite this, the man obtained a judgment of more than $90,000 against the other driver for his accident injuries. Since the at-fault motorist was uninsured, the man never collected the damages that were awarded to him.

About one month before the man was hurt, his wife obtained a new automobile insurance policy naming both members of the couple as insured drivers. Following the crash, he filed a claim for uninsured motorist coverage from their auto insurer. The insurance company denied the man’s claim because his wife rejected uninsured motorist coverage in writing when she obtained the policy. The man then filed a lawsuit in Daviess County Circuit Court against his insurance company to recover the uninsured motorist benefits he believed he was statutorily entitled to.

The man testified at trial that his wife was asked to obtain the same accident coverage the couple held with their previous motor vehicle insurer, which included uninsured motorist coverage. In addition, the injured man claimed that he was a co-applicant who did not reject his statutory right to uninsured motorist coverage, as evidenced by the fact that he did not sign the insurance policy application. Still, he received a copy of the policy and paid insurance premiums that did not include uninsured motorist benefits.

According to the insurer, the man’s wife was acting as his agent when she purchased the new insurance policy. The trial court agreed and granted the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment. In a motion for summary judgment, a party to a lawsuit is asking a court to rule in its favor because, even if everything the other party alleged is true, there are no issues of fact for a jury to decide, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The injured man then sought review of the decision by the Court of Appeals of Kentucky.

On appeal, the man argued that the trial court erroneously interpreted Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 304.20-020(1) when it found that he was not required to personally reject underinsured motorist coverage. He also claimed that his wife was not acting as his agent when she obtained the new automobile insurance policy and, even if she was, he did not ratify her purported rejection of the coverage. After reviewing the applicable statute, the appeals court stated the law is unambiguous and requires the named insured to reject uninsured motorist accident coverage in writing. The Court of Appeals added that the trial court’s holding was inconsistent with the legislative purpose of the statute.

Additionally, the court held that the man’s wife was not acting as his agent when she rejected uninsured motorist accident coverage because she did not claim to sign the waiver on her husband’s behalf, and there was no evidence to support such a conclusion. Finally, the Kentucky Court of Appeals found that the injured man did not ratify his wife’s rejection of the coverage at issue because all parties, including the insurer, are presumed to know the law’s requirements. Since the man’s wife was the only person to sign the uninsured motorist coverage waiver, and the insurance coverage is required by statute absent a waiver, the appellate court held that summary judgment was inappropriate and overturned the trial court’s decision.

To discuss your personal injury case with a personal injury attorney, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP at (270) 781-6500 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Boarman v. Grange Indemnity Ins. Co., Ky: Court of Appeals 2014

More From Our Blog

Breach of Warranty and Fraud Claims Will be Litigated in Kentucky Pharmaceutical Injury Case, July 24, 2014, Kentucky Personal Injury Attorneys Blog