SW Legal studies in Business

Theft Changes Classification of Vehicle for Insurance Purposes
Description Maine high court held that a peace officer’s personal auto policy covered injuries he suffered when his patrol car was stolen, and the thief ran over the officer. The theft of the vehicle changed its classification from a work vehicle to a stolen vehicle, and the officer’s personal uninsured motorist coverage applied.
Topic Insurance
Key Words

Uninsured Motorist; Coverage; Regular Use

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Pease was an officer in the county sheriff’s office. When he was at home, off duty, he was called to respond to a disturbance. He drove his patrol car to the scene. He approached Montagna, the person causing the disturbance. While confronting him, Montagna ran and jumped in the patrol car. Pease tried to stop him, but was dragged by the car and run over, suffering serious injuries. Montagna has no assets and his auto insurance policy does not cover his unlawful possession of Pease’s patrol car. The sheriff’s office did not carry uninsured motorist coverage for its patrol cars, so there was no help there. Pease then sued State Farm, his personal auto insurance company, for uninsured motorist coverage. The district court held for State Farm. Pease appealed.
Decision

Vacated and remanded. Exclusions and exceptions in insurance policies are disfavored and are construed strictly against the insurer. The policy excluded a vehicle “furnished for regular use” of the insured, that is, the patrol car. However, when Montagna stole the patrol car, it stopped being a vehicle furnished for the insured’s use and was simply a stolen vehicle. Hence, the policy covers the injury suffered by Pease.

Citation Pease v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 931 A.2d 1072 (Sup. Ct., Maine, 2008)

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