The RI Supreme Court denied uninsured motorist coverage to compensate the beneficiaries of the estate of a man who died as a result of the negligence of an uninsured motorist in a fatal motorcycle accident. The Top Court sustained the Providence Superior Court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the Insurance Company.
A declaratory judgment bike accident
Despite the death of the cyclist, this matter did not come before the Court as a RI wrongful death motorcycle crash cause of action. This case was a declaratory judgment case in which the insurance company was asking the court to declare it owed no duty to compensate the decedent’s wife and estate as a result of the collision. The RI Supreme Court determined that the Insurance policy exclusion commonly known as the “owned but not insured exclusion” *(policy provision set forth below) precluded uninsured motorist coverage to the estate of the man who died in the bike and car collision.
Policy was not ambiguous | bike accident
The Highest Court in RI also determined that the insurance policy was not ambiguous. The Court reasoned that it would be unfair to the insurance company to allow an increased risk for an owned vehicle which was not listed in the contract to be covered without allowing the liability company to increase premiums to account for such risk. New London County Mutual Insurance Company v. Karolyn Fontaine,Individually, and in her capacity as administratrix of the Estate of Leo Fontaine http://statecasefiles.justia.com/documents/rhode-island/supreme-court/10-49.pdf?ts=1340371083
Key Providence motorcycle Accident Facts | a bike accident
A married Couple was involved in a very serious motorcycle accident in Providence, Rhode Island. The husband who was operating the motorcycle was seriously injured and eventually “died as a result of his injuries”. The Husband was the victim of a motorcycle -motor vehicle crash while operating his bike on Allens Ave in Providence RI. His wife was a passenger on the bike and she was seriously injured as a result of the auto collision but survived the mishap. The motorist at fault for the car-bike wreck had no liability insurance policy and therefore was considered an “uninsured” motorist. The motor vehicle in which the uninsured operator was driving also was not covered by any vehicular liability insurance policy. (The estate was able to collect the policy limits from the deceased husband’s uninsured motorist motorcycle policy but only collected 100,000.)
The RI Personal Injury Lawyers who represented the estate of the person killed in the accident sought additional compensation, over and above the 100k, as a result of the bike crash. The estate pursued a claim for uninsured motorist (UM) benefits pursuant to another insurance policy which insured two other automobiles owned by husband and wife. Predictably, the Insurance company by and through their RI motorcycle accident Attorneys’ denied uninsured benefits asserting that “the Harley Davidson motorcycle owned and operated by Mr. Fontaine was not listed as a “vehicle covered” in the insurance policy.” The Liability Insurance Company asserted that “claim fell within an exclusion that removed from UM coverage any bodily injury suffered by an insured “[w]hile ‘occupying,’ or when struck by, any motor vehicle owned by that ‘insured’ which is not insured for this coverage.” Id.
The estate of the man who was killed in the fatal motorcycle accident argued through their Rhode Island personal injury attorneys that the “owned but not insured exclusion within the NLC policy was unclear and ambiguous and thus should be construed against the insurer to permit UM coverage.” Id.
Decision of RI Supreme Court | bike accident:
“Viewing the NLC policy in its entirety, and affording the words at issue their plain and ordinary meaning in the way that would be understood by “the ordinary reader and purchaser,”
we conclude that the “owned but not insured” exclusion applicable in this case is not ambiguous.Town of Cumberland, 860 A.2d at 1215 (quoting Pressman v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., 574 A.2d 757, 760 (R.I. 1990)).” Id.
“The purpose of [an ‘owned but not insured’] exclusionary clause is twofold: ‘(1) to prevent an insured from receiving coverage on all household cars or another uninsured car of the insured by merely purchasing a single policy, and (2) to provide coverage to the insured when engaged in the infrequent use of non-owned vehicles.’” Bartlett, 593 A.2d at 47 (quoting Dairyland Insurance Co., 517 P.2d at 969-70). A reading of the applicable “owned but not insured” exclusion in the NLC policy as proffered by defendants frustrates this legitimate purpose by increasing the risk insured by an insurer without allowing for a corresponding increase in the premium charged. Nor is such an increase in risk capable of actuarial calculation. The resultant imposition of such great uncertainty upon the insurer reveals defendants’ proposed interpretation as one that renders an unreasonable result.” Id.
*“EXCLUSIONS A. We do not provide Uninsured Motorists Coverage for ‘bodily injury’ sustained by any ‘insured’: “1. While ‘occupying’, or when struck by, any motor vehicle owned by that ‘insured’ which is not insured for this coverage.” Id.