INSURANCE: Underinsured motorist benefits and policy exclusion for resident relative who owned an auto: Auto-Owners Insurance Company v. Goode (COA 2/13/2009)

Auto-Owners Insurance Company v. Goode

2009 WL 367216
Opinion by Judge Keller; Chief Judge Combs and Senior Judge Henry concurred.

The Court affirmed a jury verdict in favor of appellee on her claim for coverage under her mother’s underinsured motorist coverage, which exempted from coverage a relative who owned an automobile.

The Court first held that the definition of “automobile” in the policy was ambiguous. The Court then held that the holding in Lewis v. American Family Ins. Group, 555 S.W.2d 579 (Ky. 1977) was applicable and therefore, the trial court did not err in defining “automobile” as one that had not been retired from service for an indefinite time into the future.

The Court next held that the jury instruction regarding the operability of appellee’s car was not erroneous, as counsel had ample opportunity to flesh out the legal nuances regarding the extent of damage to appellee’s car, the cost to repair it and whether appellee intended to repair it.

The Court finally held that the trial court did not err in denying the insurer’s motion for a directed verdict. Appellee’s evidence that the automobile did not have a steering column, needed brake repairs, had bald tires and had not been driven for several months was sufficient for a jury to reasonably conclude that the repairs necessary to make the car roadworthy and/or operable were not minor in nature.

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