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The difference between $ 50,000 in coverage and $ 20 million in multiple appeals



Available policy boundaries and assets are always important for litigation and their lawyers. Regardless of the facts of an incident and applicable law, the potential $ 20 million plunge in political boundaries and unlawful death draws a young person's plaintiff's lawyers who honey flies.

Charles Armstrong, administrator of The Estate of Craig Armstrong v. The Estate of Jonathan Elmore and Terrez Dewalt D / B / A Dewalt Auto Sales, NO. 2019-CA-001084-MR, Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals (May 15, 2020) Craig Armstrong was a passenger in a 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier owned and operated by Jonathan Elmore. Elmore, who delivered newspapers at that time, pulled into another vehicle's road at an intersection and was hit by the oncoming vehicle. Both Armstrong and Elmore were fatally injured, and it is not disputed that Elmore was wrong and the driver of the oncoming vehicle was innocent.

FACTS

The history of the title of the Elmore vehicle was important. On November 30, 201

3, almost five months before the accident, Martin Cadillac, a licensed motor vehicle dealer, traded for the 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier that Elmore would later drive. On December 6, 2013, Martin Cadillac sold the vehicle for $ 600 to Terrez DeWalt, d / b / a DeWalt Auto Sales, through an auction conducted by the Auction Broadcasting Company (ABC), and DeWalt took possession of it. On January 19, 2014, DeWalt sold the vehicle to Elmore for cash. As provided for in the statutes, DeWalt required Elmore to provide written insurance before Elmore gained access. Elmore received a policy with Nationwide that had $ 50,000 per person / $ 100,000 per incident incident, and he took possession of the vehicle on January 24, 2014. This policy was in effect on the day of the accident.

When Martin Cadillac sold the car to DeWalt, it never transferred the title to DeWalt. On the day of the accident, Martin Cadillac was still the owner of the certificate's title. Martin Cadillac had two insurance with Travelers Insurance Company, a general liability insurance with a $ 1,000,000 limit and an umbrella policy with a $ 20,000,000 limit.

After Armstrong filed unfair death claims in Warren Circuit Court, the most important questions quickly became who was the statutory owner of the Elmore vehicle and whose insurance was potentially liable for damage as a result of the accident. At trial, Armstrong claimed that Martin Cadillac had failed to comply with the statute requiring a dealer to transfer a vehicle to a "buyer for use" to claim insurance before transferring the vehicle. Armstrong claimed that Martin Cadillac was still the owner because Martin Cadillac had not demanded insurance certificate from DeWalt before transferring possession.

When considering cross-cutting motions for summary judgment by Martin Cadillac and Travelers, the Circuit Court rejected Armstrong's argument that Martin Cadillac was the vehicle owner despite having legal title. The Circuit Court found that Elmore was the owner of the vehicle for all purposes because he was a "buyer for use."

The Kentucky Supreme Court accepted discretionary review and Travelers Indemnity Company v . Armstrong 565 SW3d 550 (Ky. 2018) considered that "

The Court framed the issue before the circuit court as who was the statutory" owner "of the vehicle at the time of the collision, and thus which insurance company was primarily responsible for liability insurance. In the High Court, the Supreme Court upheld its decision in Gainsco Companies v . Gentry 191 SW3d 633 (Ky. 2006), where it considered that liability insurance of a dealer policy was primary where the dealer failed to obtain insurance proof before transferring a truck to a consumer buyer. [19659002] Armstrong amended the complaint to assert a claim against DeWalt who was not a party to the lawsuit. The Circuit Court granted the motion, and Armstrong acknowledged that DeWalt had complied with the statute by requiring Elmore to show proof of insurance, asserting a claim against DeWalt for damages based on alleged failure to comply with statutory requirements. [19659002] DeWalt filed a motion to dismiss, which the circuit court granted. It noted that the Supreme Court had ruled that Elmore was the statutory "owner" of the vehicle, although the title was still in Martin's name. The Circuit Court stated that because the Supreme Court had stated that Martin Cadillac was not the owner and was not responsible for the insurance coverage, it had stated that the Circuit Court's decision that Elmore was the statutory owner was correct.

ANALYSIS

The essence of DeWalt and Armstrong's competing arguments is that DeWalt disputes the circuit court, based on the Supreme Court's holding Travelers rightly considered that Elmore was the owner of the vehicle at the time of the accident.

The Supreme Court held that Martin was not the owner of the vehicle and was not responsible for the insurance coverage of the vehicle, indicating the accuracy of the decision that Elmore was the statutory owner.

Here, Armstrong initially thought a claim against Martin Cadillac as to whether he was the statutory owner of the vehicle. Armstrong lost that battle Traveler and he is now pursuing a claim against another defendant (DeWalt) on another ground.

Court case

In addition to the doctrine of security estoppel, the circuit court also granted DeWaltt's motion to refuse because of the case law. The court reasoned that the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Elmore was the statutory owner of the vehicle by reinstating this court's decision that was originally appealed.

According to the law document, a court of appeal, in a subsequent appeal, is bound by a previous decision on a previous appeal in the same court. The rule means that issues decided in previous appeals should not be reviewed in subsequent ones. Since several appeals occur during the trial, another rule of case law stipulates that issues decided in previous appeals should not be reviewed subsequently.

An extension of the Basic Law case law is the rule that prevents an appeals court from reviewing not only prior appeals, but decisions from the trial that could have been but not challenged in an earlier appeal. In this case, the doctrine applies on a case-by-case basis. The Supreme Court clearly stated in Travelers Travelers that "Elmore was the statutory" owner "of the vehicle, although the title was still in Martin's name." That it believed that Elmore was the statutory owner of the vehicle was not necessary for the court's decision; It was crucial for the court's ruling to establish only that Martin Cadillac was not the owner. Nevertheless, the court made that decision, and the appeal court is bound by it.

The Circuit Court's decision to dismiss DeWalt as a party because Armstrong is barred from reviewing vehicle ownership based on the Supreme Court's clear language Travelers .

I understand that the heirs would have preferred to dip into Martin's $ 21 million in liability insurance rather than the dead driver's $ 50,000 in coverage, ie the two appeals. They probably should have given up after the loss in the Supreme Court but tried again. Hopefully, since the Supreme Court has followed the Supreme Court's decision, appeals will stay and people in Kentucky will learn the reason for buying high-border UM / UIM coverage.


© 2020 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq. , CFE, now limits its practice to acting as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claim management, bad faith insurance and insurance fraud almost the same for insurers and policyholders. He also acts as arbitrator or mediator for insurance-related disputes. He has practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and attorney management attorney and more than 52 years in the insurance industry. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and zalma@zalma.com.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine / ACE Legend Award.

For the past 52 years Barry Zalma has dedicated his life to insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other material to enable insurance companies and their claims staff to become insurance managers.

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