Schedule a Consultation | Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Trial lawyers specializing in personal injury and civil litigation

Claim over theft of vehicle is delayed by dispute over principal driver

Rose Arevalo's SUV was stolen from the curb in front of her house.  The SUV was insured by the Auto Club.  After receiving the claim, the insurer exercised its right to conduct a sworn examination under oath (EUO) of Rose and one of her sons.  When the insureds disclosed facts suggesting that the son was a frequent driver and helped pay for the SUV, the Auto Club refused to pay under the comprehensive loss provisions of the policy.  Even though the son was a resident of the same household from which the vehicle was stolen, the Auto Club maintained that the policy was written for Rose as the "principal driver," and therefore it had the right to void the policy because it would not have insured the son as the "principal driver."

The trial court granted the Auto Club summary disposition, holding that the son was the principal driver of the SUV and that no factual dispute remained.  It concluded that Rose's failure to disclose her son's frequent use of the vehicle constituted a fraud on the insurer. 

The Court of Appeals unanimously rejected this outcome and sent the case back for the jury to decide the facts.  The higher court noted that the entire family maintained that Rose controlled the only set of keys and allowed her son, Josue, to use it only when she did not need it.  The Court noted that particularly in the absence of any insurance application containing misinformation or falsehoods, the question of "principal driver" was a factual issue to be decided after weighing the credibility of the witnesses.  The court's holding was also influenced by the fact that this particular loss--a theft from the home occupied by both potential driver's at the insured address--was a risk which the insurer clearly agreed to underwrite.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262