In an issue of first impression, the Connecticut Appellate Court has held that extrinsic evidence is admissible in deciding a party’s intent for determining, in a historical context, what insurance policy was intended to be purchased.
In Fiallo v. Allstate Ins. Co., 138 Conn. App. 325 (2012) there was a dispute about whether the plaintiff purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage with conversion coverage. The declarations page was unclear as to whether conversion coverage was purchased and the court found the policy language to be ambiguous.
In resolving the ambiguity, the court avoided using the doctrine of contra proferentem, the rule that interprets a policy against the drafter. Since the ambiguity concerned whether the plaintiff purchased standard uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with conversion coverage, the issue was one of historical fact, not one of contract construction.
The court held that because the reasonable expectations of the insured control when enforcing insurance contracts, the process best suited to effectuate the intent of the parties, where the language is ambiguous as to the issue of historical fact, is to examine extrinsic evidence to determine the parties' intentions. Only when this fails to resolve the question can other contract construction be applied, for example contra proferentem.
In reaching this conclusion, the court relied on other jurisdictions that have allowed extrinsic evidence to determine which coverage was selected for purchase.
The Fiallo ruling allows for the court to engage in a fact-finding mission to determine the intent of the parties. In certain factual situations, this may be favorable to an insurer who has comprehensive evidence of which policy was procured by the insured.