Kentucky Supreme Court Decisions (Minutes) for September 20, 2013 (Nos. 134-154); 31 decisions posted and 18 cases are “To Be Published”)

Panorama View Outside Hardin Cir Ct

View From Waiting Area Outside Hardin Circuit Court Rooms

Published and Unpublished Decisions from the Supreme Court of Kentucky for September 20, 2013 (click here for AOC set of minutes)

The Supreme Court of Kentucky this week announced 21 decisions, designating 17 of those decisions for publication (“To Be Published”).

In addition, there were –

  • 9 attorney disciplinary decisions for publication.
  • 4 motions for discretionary review (MDR) were granted.

Click here  for complete list of all archived Supreme Court Minutes that you can download from the Administrative Office of the Courts web site.
Click here for THIS month’s minutes with links to all decisions, published and not to be published.

Short summary of a few of tort, insurance, procedure published decisions for this week are (click on the link for the full text of the decision from AOC):

144  Choice of Law.  Underinsured motorist benefits coverage.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. vs. Karen Hodgkiss-Warrick
Reversing
Lower Court:  Rockcastle Cir. Ct.
Published 9/20/2013

Questions Presented:
Choice of Law. Underinsured Motorist Coverage. “Regular use” exclusion in optional Pennsylvania UIM coverage does not offend Kentucky’s public policy and is enforceable.

Pennsylvania resident Karen Hodgkiss-Warrick brought suit to recover for injuries she sustained in a motor vehicle accident near Mt. Vernon, Kentucky while riding in a vehicle driven by her daughter, Heather, also a Pennsylvania resident. Because her daughter’s liability coverage was insufficient to fully compensate Hodgkiss-Warrick, she included a claim
against her own insurance carrier, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, for underinsured motorist coverage pursuant to a policy issued in Pennsylvania and covering a vehicle that Hodgkiss-Warrick registered, garaged and used exclusively in Pennsylvania. This underinsured motorist (UIM) claim against State Farm by a Pennsylvania resident injured in Kentucky gives rise to the choice of law and public policy issues which are now before us.

Under longstanding choice of law principles recognized by this Court, Pennsylvania law governs the dispute between Hodgkiss-Warrick and her carrier regarding policy coverage, and both the trial court and Court of Appeals ruled accordingly. However, the two courts reached entirely different results. Applying the plain language of the insurance contract and Pennsylvania law, the trial court concluded that Hodgkiss-Warrick was not entitled to underinsured motorist coverage because her policy disallowed coverage when she was injured in an underinsured vehicle owned or regularly used by a “resident relative.” Hodgkiss-Warrick resided with her daughter, rendering Heather a “resident relative” and foreclosing any underinsured motorist coverage for Hodgkiss-Warrick on these facts. The Court of Appeals acknowledged that Pennsylvania law applies but found a recent “shift” in Kentucky public policy that would prohibit enforcement of a policy provision that disallows UIM coverage when the insured is injured in a vehicle owned or regularly used by a relative with whom the insured resides. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals panel adjudged Hodgkiss-Warrick was entitled to UIM coverage despite the plain language of her policy. We granted State Farm’s motion for discretionary review and reverse. Pennsylvania law applies to this insurance coverage dispute and, contrary to the appellate panel’s surmise about Kentucky public policy, there is no prohibition on the type of UIM exclusion at issue here, an exclusion expressly approved by this Court in Motorists Mut. Ins. Co. v. Glass, 996 S.W.2d 437 (1999).

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