COVID-19 Resource Center

08/12/2021

Patricia Holden Obtains Summary Judgments in Favor of the Insurance Carriers

           Patricia Holden, a partner in the Mt. Laurel office of Cipriani & Werner, P.C., responsible for handling insurance coverage and bad faith claims, recently obtained summary judgment orders that were decided in favor of her insurance company clients on two separate matters.

           In the first case, the insured claimed that his policy had been canceled without the proper notifications and therefore, he was entitled to coverage for an accident that occurred several months after the alleged date of cancellation.  The insured filed a declaratory judgment action that he, along with his permissive user, were owed coverage.  The carrier’s defense to the action was that it was not a case in which the policy had been canceled.  In fact, the policy expired because the insured failed to pay the renewal premium.  At the close of discovery, Ms. Holden moved for summary judgment.  The insured had testified at deposition that he had received the renewal packet and had assumed he had coverage because he had received the insurance I.D. cards with the renewal packet.  There was evidence that the policy, when it was in effect, had been sent to an address registered to the insured’s step-father who normally paid the bills.  However, prior to the expiration of the policy, the insured party requested that the policy address be changed to his own address.  The renewal packet was duly sent to his revised policy listed address.  The insured simply failed to provide his step-father with the renewal bill for payment and had also apparently ignored electronic correspondence from his insurance agent alerting him to the policy’s expiration and potential lapse in coverage.  The Court agreed with Ms. Holden’s argument that the renewal offer was properly mailed to and received by the insured.  Since he simply failed to pay the bill, the policy expired and no coverage was owed to him or the driver for the accident.

           In the second case, the insured was sued by his auto finance institution for defaulting on a loan.  When the bank obtained a judgment against him for the balance of the loan, he initiated a third party action against his insurer for the alleged theft of the vehicle.  The insured became involved in a complex scheme to purchase high end vehicles at a low cost and re-sell them for a profit in order to make money.  He lent his credit and personal auto liability insurance to an unscrupulous car dealer, who unbeknownst to the insured, failed to pay the installment loan on the vehicle after it was purchased.  In the meantime, the vehicle, which was garaged out of state at the car dealer’s premises, apparently went missing.  When the insured was contacted by the bank about the default on the loan, he made inquiries at the car dealership as to why it was not paid and that is when he discovered that the vehicle had apparently been stolen from the dealership.  He reported the loss of the vehicle to his insurer which denied the claim.  The insured applied for the auto policy shortly before the alleged loss of the vehicle and had indicated that the vehicle was going to be garaged at his home in New Jersey rather than out of state.  The carrier deemed this to be a material misrepresentation in the application process which voided the policy.  At the close of discovery, Ms. Holden moved for summary judgment on this basis and the Court agreed declaring that the failure to properly disclose the garaging location of the vehicle was a material misrepresentation that voided the policy.

           If you have a complex insurance coverage matter requiring seasoned expertise, contact Attorney Patti Holden at pholden@c-wlaw.com.