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Mark Smith Wins Major Victory in Indiana Supreme Court
Wednesday - July 18, 2018 12:25 pm
In Erie Indemnity Company, as Attorney-in-Fact for the Subscribers at Erie Insurance Exchange v. Estate of Brian L. Harris, by Its Special Representative, Laura Harris, and Anna Marie Harris, et al., 18S-CT-114, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed an Elkhart Superior Court ruling that a Goshen man’s estate was entitled to collect under the uninsured motorists policy held by his employer.

While mowing his lawn on a riding mower, Brian L. Harris was struck and killed by Noel M. Sparks, who was driving a 1974 Chevrolet truck he had borrowed. At the time of the accident, Sparks was driving on a suspended license, so he was deemed to be an uninsured motorist.

Harris was a longtime employee of Formco, Inc., which allowed him to drive a company-owned 2004 Toyota pickup truck as his primary business and personal transportation.

Erie Indemnity Company and Erie Insurance Exchange issued a commercial auto policy to Formco. The policy contained an uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage endorsement that supplied coverage limits of $1 million per accident and listed Harris’ Toyota as one of Formco’s scheduled vehicles. Harris was never a named insured under the policy but instead was listed as a “scheduled driver.”

Erie denied the claim submitted by Harris’ estate for his death. The Estate sued Erie seeking, in part, a declaratory judgment entitling it to uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage benefits for the accident that killed Harris and damages up to the policy limits.

The Court found that Harris did not qualify as “others we protect” under Erie’s policy. It concluded the term was not ambiguous and was susceptible to only one reasonable interpretation under the policy’s section that outlines qualified claimants.

Well done, Mr. Smith.