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Ohio Court Rules that Summary Judgment Was Improper in UM/UIM Coverage Case

January 8, 2018

When Issues Remained as to Whether Injured Mother Was a Member of Son's Household for Purposes of Coverage Under the Son’s Automobile Insurance Policy

People who are involved in an Ohio car accident sometimes mistakenly think that hiring an attorney as soon as possible after the collision is unnecessary because, after all, "the law is the law," and any issues that might arise can be handled later just as easily as sooner.

But no two cases are exactly alike and in fact, any car accident case may raise complex insurance or other issues, the analysis of which may determine whether the injured party gets the compensation they deserve.. With this in mind, it is easy to see why retaining an experienced personal injury attorney who can help investigate the cause of an accident, identify potential witnesses, gather important medical records and proof of injury, and deal directly with insurance adjusters who will take them seriously can be very important.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently decided in Cleveland, Ohio by the Eighth Appellate District (Cuyahoga County), the plaintiff was a woman hit by a car in July 2015 while crossing the road. She was seriously injured, incurring over $250,000 in medical bills. At the time of the accident, the woman's son and his family were living in her home while their new home was being built. They had moved into the plaintiff's home about five weeks prior to her accident, and they moved out about two months after the accident.

Because the woman’s injuries were so serious and her medical expenses so large, neither the driver’s insurance nor the injured woman’s underinsured motorists coverage were sufficient to compensate her for her injuries. She then tried to recover under her son’s underinsured motorist coverage since, she claimed, he was a resident of her home at the time of the accident.

After filing a negligence lawsuit against the person who struck her and naming both her own and her son's uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) carriers as defendants, the plaintiff entered into policy-limits settlements with both the negligent driver and her own UIM carrier. Both the plaintiff and the son's UIM carrier sought summary judgment. The Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas denied the UIM carrier's motion for summary judgment but instead granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The trial court also entered a declaratory judgment in the plaintiff's favor in the amount of the uncompensated damages stipulated by the parties ($150,000).

Decision of the Court

The Ohio Court of Appeals of Ohio for the Eighth Appellate District (Cuyahoga), (Cleveland, Ohio) affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case back to the trial court. First, the court reiterated familiar Ohio case law concerning the granting of summary judgment: in order to be awarded summary judgment, the moving party must prove that there is no genuine issue of material fact , that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and that reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion (namely, a conclusion that is adverse to the non-moving party).

The appellate court found that summary judgment in either party's favor was improper because issues of fact remained to be determined by the jury regarding whether the son's stay in the plaintiff's home was permanent or temporary and whether the plaintiff was a resident of the son's household during his stay in her home. (Declaratory judgment for the plaintiff was also found to be in error.) In so holding, the court acknowledged that the case in question was unusual, since a more typical UM/UIM case would revolve around whether the son was a member of the plaintiff's household (and thus a potential UM/UIM claimant under the plaintiff's policy) rather than whether the plaintiff was a member of the household of her son, who was temporarily sharing her home at the time of the plaintiff's accident.

Contact a Knowledgeable Ohio Car Accident Lawyer

At Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., our experienced Ohio automobile accident attorneys handle a wide variety of car accident, truck crash, motorcycle collision, and bicycle accident cases throughout the greater Cleveland area, as well as elsewhere in Ohio. Since we understand that financial difficulties often accompany personal injury claims and wrongful deaths, we handle most cases under a contingency fee agreement. This means that we are paid out of the settlement or judgment when the case concludes, rather than upfront. Call us at 216-696-4006 to schedule a free consultation.

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