Sheriff’s deputy run over by own stolen car entitled to UM benefits from personal auto policy

This is a coverage scenario you don’t run into every day, from Pease v. State Farm, a decision from Maine a couple days ago (click here to read the decision):

  • Jason Pease, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy in Portland, Maine, gets a call to go check out a domestic disturbance;
  • He drove his unmarked patrol car to the scene, got out and left the engine running;
  • He found the man who had been causing the disturbance — the man said he had been drugged and people were out to get him;
  • The man ran away from Pease, got into his patrol car, and while Pease tried to pull him out, drove away;
  • The car knocked Pease down and ran over his leg, causing severe injuries;
  •  The auto insurance policy of the drugged man provided no coverage because he was in unlawful possession of Pease’s patrol car; 
  • The sheriff’s office had decided to carry no uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for officers on the job;
  • So Pease looked to his own UM insurance on his personal auto policy from State Farm; 
  • The insurer argued UM benefits were not implicated because the policy did not cover motor vehicles "furnished for the regular use of you, your spouse or any relative;" 
  • The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine found coverage existed — and this is the part that is really interesting — because the patrol car stopped being furnished for his regular use at the moment the suspect stole it. 

I thought this was some pretty creative thinking, but it apparently was not the argument the insured’s attorney made.  The insured argued the "regular use" provision did not apply, but what argument was actually made is not revealed.  The court said only that it came up with its own reasoning, which the justices didn’t quite explain, exactly.  Nevertheless, this impressed me and I’m going to remember it and use a variation of it in some case involving causation.  Here is a newspaper story I found about the case from the Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine. If you read the reader comments to the story, the David in there is not me. Not that there’s anything particularly crazy about what he wrote, I’m just sayin’.


Filed under UIM/UM Coverage

4 Responses to Sheriff’s deputy run over by own stolen car entitled to UM benefits from personal auto policy

  1. Jamey

    I know you have spent a lot of time on ACC the last several months but I feel you could spend a lifetime on UM. It often seems as the catch all for auto insurance. I would love for someone to list some of the most outrageous UM claims, I bet it would be interesting.

  2. Nardi

    Ok, just another fine example of a court saying “Oh, you’re hurt. So sorry, here poor pitiful you….we know you didnt carry the proper coverage (unowned auto coverage,) and we know you didnt have it from your work, so we’ll give it to you from that mean old rich insurance company that expects you to abide by the terms in the contract they sold you. We’ll show them….
    Yet again…judicial activism.

  3. Jamey, a lot of UIM/UM law, as you know, is fairly bizarre, because courts treat it more or less like an entitlement no matter what the facts, similar to unemployment insurance. If you click on the case I wrote about, there is an entire list of cases cited within it, and I bet if one read them, it would go quite a ways to compiling that list you speak of.
    Nardi, I think the really fascinating part of the decision was how the court avoided writing down the logic that got them to the award. I mean, of course the crazed druggie perp was an uninsured driver, but the exclusion seems pretty much on point — car was provided for his regular use. In the mere seconds between when he got out and when it was stolen, the car ceased to be made available for regular use! Magic! The fact that the driver was uninsured erased the intent of the sheriff’s office that it wanted to furnish it for Pease’s regular use. If Pease had lent the car to a passing uninsured hobo, who then ran over him, would the court have found the same result? That is, was it the stealing that made it stop being furnished for his regular use, or just the fact that someone else was driving it? What if he were chasing a loose pig, and the pig ran into his patrol car, accidentally knocking the car into gear and then falling onto the gas pedal, causing Pease to be run down? Pigs can’t form the intent to steal or to drive. What happens then? What if Pease received a blow to the head by the suspect, returned to his car to rest, and as a result of the blow, latent psychological disturbances were loosed, and an alternate personality, “Bad Cap’n Ned,” started to steal the car, cranking the wheel to make a U-turn and speed away, before Pease gained control of his body and threw himself from the car, which then completed the U-turn and ran over him?