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Indiana Supreme Court: Opinions Address Uninsured Motorist Coverage, Compensation For Care And Services For Family
Posted in Litigation

The Indiana Supreme Court issued two opinions on May 13.

In Bush v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, the Court held that “an uninsured motorist policy restricting coverage to bodily injury or death sustained by an insured does not violate Indiana’s uninsured motorist coverage.”  The issue in Bush arose when fifty-six-year-old Leonard Bush, Jr. was killed as a passenger in a single vehicle accident caused by the driver’s negligence.  Both he and the driver had no insurance covering the accident or the vehicle.  Leonard’s parents sought uninsured motorist coverage from State Farm for their own damage claims (though the theory of damages was not expressly stated in the parents’ complaint).  State Farm denied coverage because Leonard was not an “insured” and therefore no “insured” sustained bodily injury, as required by the policy’s uninsured motorist provision.  The Indiana Court of Appeals held that the policy’s exclusion of coverage for Leonard violated Indiana’s uninsured motorist statute.  882 N.E.2d 821 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008).

On transfer, the Indiana Supreme Court held that the exclusion did not violate Indiana Code section 27-7-5-2, which the Court explained “makes clear that it contemplates uninsured motorist coverage only for the insured’s bodily injury.”  The Court also rejected the argument that State Farm’s definition of “bodily injury” is ambiguous and “could be construed as including emotional distress sustained by persons who do not sustain bodily injury.”  The Court explained that, if this were a viable claim, it could be asserted in the plaintiffs’ individual capacities; however, the Court stated, that argument had already been foreclosed by State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Jakupko, 881 N.E.2d 654 (Ind. 2008), which “interpreted the same definition of bodily injury to include emotional distress only if it arises from a bodily touching.”  Bingham McHale’s Karl Mulvaney and Nana Quay-Smith represented State Farm in this case.

In Estate of Margaret H. Prickett v. Womersley, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously held that a woman who provided care and services to her mother while her mother was under a guardianship was not entitled to compensation for those services because “Indiana law presumes that services by a family member are rendered gratuitously.” 

To rebut this presumption, the daughter produced a written statement signed by her mother that expressed the mother’s desire for the guardian to compensate her daughter for services provided.  The Court held this was insufficient because the mother “could not enter into contracts at the time she executed the statement because she had already been adjudicated an incapacitated person under the Guardianship Code.”  Any implied contract or express contract for intention and expectation of compensation “must exist between that person and the incapacitated person’s guardian.”  “The very fact that a guardian for her estate had been appointed established, as a matter of law, that [the mother] could not make a legally significant request.”  The Court reversed the trial court’s order denying the Estate’s motion for summary judgment.

  • Partner

    Karl practices in the areas of appellate, litigation and disciplinary law. He is a 1977 cum laude graduate of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Mulvaney earned his undergraduate degree from The Ohio State ...

  • Of Counsel

    Nana has extensive appellate court experience, and has handled many significant appeals, including G&N Aircraft v. Boehn, Ammerman v. Ford and Meyer v. Shell, to name a few. Throughout her career, she has had the opportunity to ...

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