WORKERS COMP & UM: Co-employee’s immunity did not preclude UM claim for work-related death in MVA in case of first impression in Ky: State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Slusher (COA 7/27/2009)

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Slusher
2009 WL 485027
Opinion by Judge Wine; Judge Caperton concurred; Judge Taylor dissented by separate opinion.

The Court affirmed a judgment of the circuit court finding that the estate of an employee was entitled to receive uninsured motorist benefits under a policy issued to the deceased on his personal automobile.

In a case of first impression, the Court held that the co-employee’s immunity from liability under the Workers’ Compensation Act, KRS 342.690(1), did not preclude the estate from recovering uninsured motorist’s benefits from the policy. Because the policy language “legally entitled to recover” was ambiguous, the Court applied the “essential facts” approach. Because the parties stipulated that the co-employee’s negligence caused the accident and that the damages exceeded the workers’ compensation benefits and were at least the policy limits for UM or UIM benefits, recovery was appropriate. Further, because the clear intent of the UIM statute was to allow an insured to purchase additional coverage so as to be fully compensated, it was of no consequence that the tortfeasor was unable to respond in damages.

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