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Star-crossed teens on the run

Star-crossed teens on the run

Star-crossed teens on the run
March 30
08:40 2022

INSURANCE-RELATEDCOURTCASES

Digested from case reports published online

COURT DECISIONS

Star-crossed teens on the run

On or about October 21, 2016, Collette J. Boure and Alexander F. Meyers, both aged 17, broke into the home of Meyers’ great aunt, Nancy Snow, took her car without her permission, fled Maine, and drove across the country. Two weeks later, while in Oklahoma, they crashed during a chase with police, resulting in Boure’s death. Neither Boure nor Meyers had a driver’s license.

Boure’s father, Michael Grindel, as personal representative of her estate, sought uninsured motorist coverage from Concord General Mutual Insurance Company on a personal auto policy issued to him, and from 21st Century Centennial Insurance Company and 21st Century Insurance and Financial Services, Inc., on a personal auto policy issued to Meyers’ great aunt.

The insurers denied coverage. Concord then brought a declaratory judgment against the estate. The estate counterclaimed against Concord and brought a separate action against 21st Century and Concord, and 21st Century separately moved for summary judgment.

The court granted summary judgments in the insurers’ favor based on provisions in the personal auto policies that exclude coverage when the insured lacks a reasonable belief that she is entitled to use the covered vehicle.

The estate appealed from both judgments, and Concord cross-appealed to argue alternative grounds.

Because it concluded that the estate’s appeal was untimely, the court dismissed that appeal and Concord’s cross-appeal. Also, because it concluded that the court properly entered summary judgment in favor of 21st Century, it affirmed that judgment.

On September 19, 2018, Concord filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment because Boure did not have a reasonable belief that she was entitled to use Snow’s vehicle. The following month the estate answered and counterclaimed, seeking a declaratory judgment and asserting claims for unfair claims practice, wrongful death caused by an uninsured motorist, conscious pain and suffering, and negligence. The estate also filed a complaint seeking identical relief from eight other insurers alleged to have issued policies to Boure’s mother. The estate twice amended its complaint, eventually identifying only the policy issued by 21st Century to Snow. The court consolidated the matters.

On August 20, 2019, Concord filed a motion for summary judgment. The estate opposed the motion, claiming there were genuine issues of material fact, and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. On March 3, 2020, the court granted Concord’s motion, dismissed the estate’s counterclaim and cross-motion, and directed the clerk to enter the order in the docket; the clerk did so on March 4.

The summary judgment order included language that stated: “[i]f any party contends that a final judgment should not enter, that party shall notify the court on or before March 16, 2020.”

On April 6, 2020, the estate filed a “motion to defer entry of final judgment.” Several months later the court granted the estate’s motion.

Approximately three months after summary judgment was entered in favor of Concord, 21st Century filed a motion for summary judgment. 21st Century argued that the circumstances surrounding Boure’s death fell within two of its policy’s exclusions—namely, that (1) Boure sustained injuries while using Snow’s vehicle when she did not reasonably believe that she was entitled to do so and that (2) Boure was not “legally entitled” to recover under the policy because she had been participating in an illegal act. On February 24, 2021, the court entered summary judgment in favor of 21st Century based on the “unauthorized use” exclusion.

On March 10, 2021, the estate filed a notice of appeal from the judgments entered on “03/03/20 and 02/23/21.” Concord cross-appealed to argue alternative grounds on which the court could affirm the summary judgment.

On appeal, the court noted that the estate had been given three weeks to file an appeal but had not done so until nearly a year later, so its appeal was untimely and must be dismissed.

The appeal of the judgment entered in favor of Concord was dismissed. The judgment entered in favor of 21st Century was affirmed.

Concord General Mutual Insurance Company v. Estate of Collette J. Boure et al.—Maine Supreme Judicial Court—November 16, 2021—No. 2021 ME 57.

 

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Jim Brooks

Jim Brooks

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