Travelers Insurance delays payment of no fault insurance obligation by arguing ladder dropped from the heavensLuann Dancey was badly hurt when she suddenly encountered a large industrial ladder in her lane at the intersection of I-75 and I-696. The ladder was obscured by another vehicle, allowing Dancey inadequate time to avoid it: when she struck the ladder it caused a flat tire and she rolled her car. Ultimately, she sued her insurer, Travelers, to collect Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage for her injuries, pointing out that the ladder was obviously in the middle of the freeway because it had been negligently allowed to fall (and remain uncollected) from an unidentified vehicle. The trial court agreed and refused to grant Travelers summary disposition. Travelers appealed.
In a carefully considered unanimous opinion that reviewed the problematic case law on injuries caused by objects dropped in the roadway, Judge Peter O'Connell concluded that the lower court decision was correct and Travelers must defend the claim. The Court of Appeals judges first rejected the argument that Travelers UM coverage applied only to vehicles owned by Maryland Electric and not to Dancey's leased vehicle, even though she was a "named insured" on the policy. After reviewing the complicated insurance purchase arrangements made by Dancey, her ex-husband, Maryland Electric, their insurance agent and Travelers, the Court held that the question of whether Dancey was entitled to the coverage she thought she purchased was a question of fact for the jury.
With regard to the ladder, the Court noted that since the ladder was abandoned in the highway at a location where pedestrian access is not allowed, there was a reasonable basis for jurors to conclude that it had fallen from a motor vehicle. [Indeed, as the trial judge noted, there was no OTHER reasonable explanation for the ladder finding its way to the freeway overpass].