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’.