Court overturns trial judge; grants summary disposition to State Farm on UIM claim, finding earlier decision binding
Crystal Barnes sued to recover injury damages from the at-fault driver or from the State Farm Underinsured Motorist [UIM] coverage on the car she was operating. She had previously sought PIP benefits to cover her medical, and was sent to the Assigned Claims plan. Farmers Insurance was assigned the claim and fought it, arguing that Barnes should be covered through State Farm. (A friend had insured the vehicle, which was used, normally, to transport Barnes' mother for medical treatment.) Barnes didn't appear at the hearing where the two insurers argued over priority, and didn't timely appeal the judge's conclusion that the vehicle was "uninsured" as to Barnes because it was available to her for frequent use, without identifying her as the insured.
State Farm defended her subsequent injury, UIM claim with the theory that she could not recover because she didn't timely appeal and therefore couldn't argue that the vehicle was, in fact, properly insured. The Court of Appeals agreed and overturned the trial judge's conclusion that, with regard to a fault or UIM claim, Barnes enjoyed the right to show that she was not operating an "uninsured" vehicle. The appellate judges ruled that both cases turned on the issue of whether or not Barnes was properly considered an "owner" of the car, and therefore the original case outcome was binding.