Archive for March, 2012

Georgia Court of Appeals: Plaintiff Cannot Stack Policies for Recovery in an Uninsured Motorist Accident

On March 7, 2007, Judy Dunn-Craft was driving a jeep owned by her boyfriend, Steven Vinson, and insured by State Farm. Noticing movement in bushes to her right Dunn-Craft turned around and proceeded back to the area, where she stopped her car in the oncoming traffic lane with her lights on. She exited the car and noticed an injured deer on the side of the road. After investigating the incident and calling for help, Dunn-Craft was struck by Oliver Dwayne Hutchins and suffered severe injuries.
Vinson also owned three additional automobiles, all four insured with State Farm, and all four policies having Dunn-Craft as a listed driver. Dunn-Craft felt that her injuries exceeded the $25,000 provided by Hutchins’ insurance coverage, and sought to stack the State Farm policies owned by Vinson. Dunn-Craft brought suit against Hutchins, his employer, as well as State Farm. All three insurance companies filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court denied partial summary judgment to State Farm, finding that a question of material fact existed as to whether Dunn-Craft could recover UM benefits under the policy insuring the jeep, but granted summary judgment on State Farm’s claims that Dunn-Craft was not eligible to stack the other three policies in Vinson’s name because she was not the named insured or the spouse or resident relative of the named insured. The trial court also granted summary judgment to the other insurers.
Dunn-Craft appealed the verdict, arguing the trial court erred in determining that she was not entitled to stack Vinson’s insurance policies. The Court of Appeals disagreed. The court found that O.C.G.A §33-7-11(a)(1), which provides the statutory basis for stacking, created two categories of insured persons. The first category consists of “the named insured and, while resident of the same household, the spouse of any such named insured and relatives of either, while in a motor vehicle or otherwise.” Coverage for this first classification attaches to the insured regardless of location and such insureds need not be in the insured automobile. Although Dunn-Craft was a listed driver on Vinson’s State Farm renewal premium notices, the court ruled this did not make her a named insured. The second category consists of “any person who uses, with the expressed or implied consent of the named insured, the motor vehicle to which the policy applies.” The court found that because Dunn-Craft was standing near the jeep at the time she was struck, and not inside the vehicle, a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether she was entitled to UM coverage under the second category of coverage. It reiterated the fact, however, that she was not entitled to stack the State Farm policies because she was not a named insured on those policies.
In light of this decision, it is extremely important not to conflate an individual as a “listed driver” on a policy with being a “named insured.” Georgia law affords different types of protection based on one’s status, the latter being able to stack insurance policies for coverage purposes, the former being unable to do so.

For more information, please contact Timothy Buckley III, Esq. at (404) 633-9230.


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