Kawaljit Bhatia questioned the district court's grant of the defendant insurer's claim for a summary judgment on an uninsured motorist claim. Bhatia claimed that there was a real issue as to whether his daughter was a resident relative of his insurance company when she was killed in a motorcycle accident. In Kawaljit S. Bhatia, as trustee of Ena M. Bhatia's next of kin, deceased v. Owners Insurance Company No. A21-0378, Court of Appeals of Minnesota (December 6, 2021), the Court of Appeal was asked to declare Ena Bhatia as a resident relative in violation of the court's decision.
In 2016, 21-year-old Ena Bhatia fell off a moving motorcycle driven by her boyfriend. She died on the spot.
Claiming that the motorcycle was an uninsured vehicle, Bhatia, who is Ena's father and relatives, applied for UM benefits from her own insurance company, Owners Insurance Company (Owners). Bhatia's Insurance with Owner identifies the circumstances under which the policyholder may recover damages when the policyholder or a relative is injured or killed in an uninsured vehicle.
The insurance defines "relative" as "a person who lives with you and who is related to you through blood, marriage or adoption. "
The owners denied Bhatia's claim because Ena was not a resident relative of her father. Bhatia sued.
Bhatia claimed that the district court erred in finding that the undisputed medical record established that Ena did not live with him and therefore was not a "relative" under his insurance.
The evidence follows.
- Bhatia and his ex-husband had two children, one and one son.
- The couple divorced in 2003.
- After the divorce, Bhatia continued to live in the Burnsville marriage home.
- As a teenager. , Ena had a bedroom in the Burnsville home, and she often stayed there, alternating between her father's house and her mother's residence.
- After graduating from high school and being released, Ena remained close to her father. They were seen every day.
- One moved into an apartment.
Bhatia owns several companies. One of these companies is a store in St. Paul who sells gifts and other items. Bhatia owns the building that houses the St. Paul. On the upper floor of the building there are four apartments. At the time of Ana's death, Bhatia sometimes stayed in one of these units, although he continued to live in Burnsville's home. Bhatia's son lived in a second unit. And after graduating from high school, Ena lived separately in a third unit. The fourth unit was vacant and used by the family when needed.
One kept her bedroom in her father's home in Burnsville, and she sometimes stayed there as an adult. But Ena lived in the unit above the store.
When Ena died, she was moving from Bhatia's building to a new apartment with her boyfriend. Bhatia last saw her on November 16, 2016 – two days before the motorcycle accident – and they discussed her move at that time. According to Bhatia, she was ecstatic about moving. She told me that she had written a check on the company account to cover the rent for her new apartment. One told Bhatia that she moved some of her belongings to the new apartment that night, including a TV she had taken from the store. Bhatia did not know if she had actually moved into the new home or spent any time there before she died. But Bhatia "hoped" that Ena had spent the night of November 16 there because she had not lived in her apartment in his building.
A party claiming insurance cover bears the preliminary burden of proof to show a prima facie case of coverage. When the party claiming coverage meets this burden, the burden of proof shifts to the insurer to prove facts that establish the avoidance of liability under the insurance as an affirmative defense. Whether the insured has shown a prima facie case of coverage depends on the language of the insurance in question.
In general, the extent of an insurer's liability is determined by its insurance contract with the insured. The language used by the insurance police ”must be interpreted as a whole, and a clear language must be given its clear and ordinary meaning. If a contract is "clear and unambiguous", a court should not rewrite, modify or limit its effect through strenuous construction. so the policy did not apply to her.
The district court noted that Ena "kept her own home separately and apart from [Bhatia]" she did not sleep "regularly under the same roof as [Bhatia]", and she did not intend to return to Bhatia's home in Burnsville because she "was moving to a new home not owned by [Bhatia]."
Because the policy here requires a relative to live . with the insured, the Court of Appeal agreed with the district court's decision to focus on whether Bhatia and Ena lived under the same roof. The Court of Appeal's independent review of the minutes showed that father and daughter had a close relationship. But there are no facts that would allow a reasonable fact seeker to conclude that they lived together.
Although Ena kept her childhood room in Bhatia's home in Burnsville, had a key to the home and sometimes spent the night, she did not stay there. . The undisputed proof is that Ena lived in St. Paul's apartment. In addition, there is no evidence that Ena ever planned to live in the Burnsville home again. At the time of her death, she was in the process of moving to another apartment.
The evidence left the Court of Appeal no doubt that Bhatia loved her daughter and that he remained close and connected to her until she passed away.  Because it there is no real factual dispute as to whether Ena was resident with Bhatia, the district court did not err in finding that she did not qualify as a resident relative under Bhatia's insurance and in approving the Owners & # 39; claim for summary judgment.
The Minnesota Court of Appeal read the policy and found that in order for the coverage to apply, Ena needed to live in her father's home where his car insurance was located. She did not. She lived in an apartment with her boyfriend whose motorcycle she fell off and caused her death. She would move to another apartment that her father was not guilty of. To find coverage under the father's insurance, the court would have had to rewrite the insurance and change the wording to cover close relatives no matter where they lived. The court did not have the power to change the language of the policy and refused to do so even though the judges would have liked to have helped the grieving father. Insurance is not an elemosynary society, it is a contractual relationship.
He also acts as an arbitrator or media
for insurance-related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as a lawyer for insurance coverage and claims management and more than 54 years in the insurance industry.
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