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Insurer's denial of coverage is upheld: coverage was an illusion

Michael Lynch owned a used car dealership and insured his vehicles thorugh Empire Fire and Marine Insurance.  His son, Christopher, was driving one of the cars at his part-time job delivering pizza, when he caused a collision.  The Lynchs apparently did not realize that they had coverage only when they were engaged in the garage business.  When the accident victim sued owner and driver for his injuries, Empire refused to honor the insurance policy. 

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and upheld Empire's denial of coverage, citing language in the insurance policy issued by Empire (probably 60 days after it was purchased) that denied coverage for vehicles not used in the "garage operations."  We wonder whether that exclusion from coverage was clear when the policy was sold, and for that matter, why Lynch's insurance agent didn't recommend more appropriate coverage.  Sadly, many consumers leave it to an agent to "find" them the proper coverage, as cheaply as possible, and do not understand that they are taking enormous coverage risks because their "agent" doesn't delve deeply enough into the facts and law:  in essence, many agents sell illusory coverage that won't actually protect insureds or their assets. 

We recently encountered a pizza business that bought liability coverage for its delivery business; it learned too late that the insurer excluded all non-owned vehicles.  Since the business owned no vehicles and relied on part-time workers to drive their own vehicles, the entire policy was worthless.

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