Widow allowed to go to trial on circumstantial evidence in death case
Home-Owners Insurance Company wrote Uninsured Motorist Coverage on Theodore Duffiney's auto policy. The coverage would pay damages for injuries caused by an unidentified negligent party, if there was actual physical contact between the "uninsured [as identification of the at-fault and thus his insurance company is impossible] motorist's" vehicle and the insured's vehicle. Duffiney was killed when his vehicle overturned on I-69 in St. Clair County. After careful investigative work, police and his wife's lawyers were able to trace a chain of evidence tying a large industrial valve, which had been left as debris on the freeway, to the accident. The evidence even included the testimony of a truck driver who recognized the valve as one he had seen, unsecured, on the back of another truck earlier in the day.The insurance company asked the trial judge to grant summary disposition, arguing that the evidence tying the industrial debris to another vehicle and to Duffiney's collision was too remote to support a verdict. The judge agreed and dismissed the case, however, the Court of Appeals reversed. It pointed out that the explanation of the incident provided by Plaintiff was adequate to create a question of fact, and was, in fact, the "most reasonable" explanation available.