A Connecticut Superior Court recently awarded summary judgment in favor of an insurer on the basis that an insured’s family member who resides in the insured’s household is not entitled to underinsured motorist benefits if they are similarly not entitled to liability coverage under the family member’s policy. Paliuis v. Safeco Ins. Co., CV-07-5006377 (Conn. Super. Nov. 20, 2009).

The plaintiff was injured as a pedestrian when he was struck by an underinsured motor vehicle. The plaintiff collected $25,000 from the torfeasor’s insurer. The plaintiff, who owned his own car, then collected $75,000 in underinsured motorist benefits from his own automobile insurer. Thereafter, the plaintiff, who resided with his daughter at the time of his injuries, sought additional underinsured motorist benefits from his daughter’s insurance carrier. The daughter’s insurer denied plaintiff’s request for benefits because he was not an insured or, more specifically, a “family member” under that policy, and the plaintiff commenced this lawsuit against his daughter’s insurer.

The insurer moved for summary judgment. The plaintiff conceded that there were no issues of fact, and conceded that he was not entitled to liability coverage under his daughter’s policy. Rather, the plaintiff argued that it was against public policy for his daughter’s insurer to deny him underinsured motorist benefits.

The court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer. The court held, as an initial matter, that the plaintiff was permissibly not covered for purposes of liability. Specifically, the court reasoned that the plaintiff did not qualify for liability coverage under the language of his daughter’s policy because (1) he was neither a named insured nor a “family member” under the policy, the definition of which excludes family members “who own[] an auto not insured under this policy, when not occupying an auto insured under this policy,” (2) the plaintiff was not operating his daughter’s car, and (3) neither the daughter nor anyone who qualified as a “family member” incurred any legal liability for which the plaintiff might be held responsible. According to the court, the plaintiff failed to meet any of the criteria to qualify as an “insured.” The court then concluded that, because the plaintiff was “permissibly not covered for liability, public policy did not require that he be provided underinsured motorist coverage.”

A copy of the opinion is available here.