Allstate v. Manzo-Pianelli et al. – Umbrella Insurance Policy Coverage

Umbrella insurance is a form of extra liability insurance that protects people from major claims and lawsuits, including those resulting from auto accidents, boat accidents, premises liability claims and more.

It’s also very good news for anyone who has been seriously injured because it increases the likelihood that damages will be paid in full. ambulance1

Yes, you can pursue an at-fault driver personally for injuries incurred in a crash, and if you obtain a favorable judgment, there are ways the court can compel that person to pay up (i.e., wage garnishment, bank account seizure, asset seizure, etc.). Even then, the person may not have enough to cover the full amount, at least not immediately. However, a successful claim against an umbrella insurer will likely be paid timely and in full. And if it isn’t, you might have a case for a bad faith insurance action, which would entitle you to additional damages if successful.

Our Boca Raton injury lawyers know that plaintiffs in most cases first pursue coverage from the automobile insurer, and then the umbrella policy covers any excess damages. In some situations, a driver may not have auto insurance, but could have umbrella policy coverage as a resident relative of a policy holder. Additionally, such coverage might be obtained through the owner of the at-fault vehicle (if different from the driver). It’s important for crash victims to have the assistance of an experienced attorney so this option is thoroughly explored.

An umbrella coverage case was recently before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in Allstate v. Manzo-Pianelli et al., where the appellate court reversed a summary judgment allowing that a permissive driver was covered under the umbrella policy of the vehicle owner.

The appellate court didn’t find the driver wasn’t covered, but rather it was a matter of fact to be decided at trial, rather than a matter of law to be decided before trial.

In this case, driver was a permissive user of a vehicle owned by another when she caused a crash resulting in injury to plaintiff. Vehicle owner had an auto insurance policy that provided $100,000 in coverage for liability, as well as an umbrella policy that provided up to $1 million in damages.

The auto insurer tendered its $100,000 policy limit to plaintiff, but this did not cover all her damages. She then sought coverage under the umbrella policy, but that insurer denied the claim.

Plaintiff then filed a complaint against her own insurer for underinsured motorist benefits. Her insurer then filed a third-party complaint against the umbrella policy insurer, seeking a determination of priority coverage. Vehicle owner was never listed as a defendant.

Parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

Plaintiff argued coverage was mandated under the excess liability insurance coverage XL provision. Insurer argued, however, a permissive user (who was not a resident relative) was not an “insured.” The umbrella policy was limited to coverage of damages that an insured person was legally obligated to pay. Vehicle owner was not a listed defendant, and could never be because the statute of limitations had run by that point, and therefore insurer insisted coverage should be denied.

Trial court granted summary judgment to plaintiff, requiring umbrella insurer to tender compensation.

However, appellate court reversed.

Although the court did not issue a decision regarding whether plaintiff may or may not collect from the umbrella policy, but found genuine issues of material fact regarding vehicle owner/policy holder’s asserted lack of legal obligation to pay the claim precluded umbrella coverage.

Case was remanded to trial court for further proceedings.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Allstate v. Manzo-Pianelli et al., Nov. 5, 2014, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:

Travelers Ins. v. Harrington – Florida Supreme Court Sides With Auto Insurer, Nov. 2, 2014, Boca Raton Crash Lawyer Blog