In a dispute between two insurers, a federal appeals court ruled that GEICO is solely responsible for the cost of replacing a Lamborghini valued at more than $ 100,000, which was added up in a collision with another vehicle.
A panel from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal rejected GEICO's argument that Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance should share in the costs because it insured the other vehicle involved in the crash near Tampa, Fla. And coverage had been falsely withdrawn. In an opinion written by Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard, the court ruled that Philip and Claudia Feldberg – & # 39; hibernators & # 39; who split their time between Massachusetts and Florida – violated the terms of their insurance contract by not informing the carrier that their Toyota Highlander had been left in Florida, where it was regularly serviced by a family member.
Howard wrote that “ the uncontested facts show that Ameriprise amply advised in her letter of motivation and renewal form that the company required the Feldbergs to verify the accuracy of the policy information about the Highlander's main storage facility and its usual drivers.
GEICO and Ameriprise agreed after the Feldbergs' daughter-in-law collided with a Lamborghini in Wesley Chapel, Florida while driving the pair's Highlander on July 24, 2018. The Lamborghini's driver was named for speeding and the daughter-in-law was fined for not giving in.
The Ameriprise policy required the Highlander to stay at least six months of the year in Massachusetts, where the policy was issued. The Feldbergs lived primarily in Peabody, Massachusetts, but they owned condominiums in Naples, Florida, where they stayed for about half the year. However, in 2018, Philip Feldberg had health problems, so he left the car in Florida and told his daughter-in-law that she could use the car at any time.
Ameriprise was aware that the Feldbergs were splitting their time between Florida and Massachusetts because they filed a claim in January 2018 after their Toyota RAV4 was damaged in a Florida parking lot. A few months later, their grandson was involved in an accident while driving the couple's Honda Accord back in Massachusetts.
After the Feldbergs filed a claim for damage caused by the collision with the Lamborghini, Ameriprise initially offered five days of rental car coverage for the Feldbergs and paid for their daughter-in-law's medical care. But the carrier also started an investigation to find out where the Highlander was usually parked and who usually drove it. After learning that the vehicle had been abandoned and that the daughter-in-law was driving it two or three days a week, Ameriprise took cover of the Feldbergs.
GEICO has insured the Lamborghini. The carrier filed a lawsuit alleging that Ameriprise was liable for part of the cost of replacing the car because it erroneously withdrawn coverage.
The United States court in Massachusetts has ordered Ameriprise in summary proceedings.
GEICO appealed, arguing that a jury could rule that the Feldbergs were under no obligation to inform Ameriprise that the car was in a garage in Florida because the announcement of the annual renewal was unclear. In insurance law, any ambiguous language is decided in favor of the policyholder, so coverage would be due if that argument prevailed.
The first circuit has not found any ambiguity.
“Ameriprise used language as accurately as a GPS tracker: it told the Feldbergs to communicate any changes to the Highlander's main storage facility and to its usual drivers,” the advisory said.
The appeals panel upheld the court's decision granting Amerprise a short sentence.
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