NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT DRIVER’S REASONABLE BELIEF TO USE VEHICLE - SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR INSURER AFFIRMED

April 22, 2013

Last Wednesday, the Dallas Court of Appeals reviewed a summary judgment in favor of an insurer based on the “reasonable-belief-of-entitlement-exclusion” and found no evidence to support that the driver had a reasonable belief that he had permission to drive the insured vehicle at the time of a single car accident.  In Sederberg v. IDS Property Casualty Ins. Co., 2013 WL 1646398 (Tex.App.-Dallas, April 17, 2013), the insured’s daughter, using the insured vehicle, attended a party with a male co-worker.  On the way home, with the co-worker driving, the vehicle left the roadway, rolled and ejected the daughter who died as a result of the accident.  The mother brought suit to recover against the driver under her own insurance policy covering the vehicle.  The insurer moved for summary judgment based in part on the argument that the driver did not have permission to drive the vehicle and was therefore not a “covered person.”  Summary judgment was granted in the insurer’s favor and this appeal followed.

On appeal, the court reviewed whether the insurer had met its burden of proof under a traditional motion for summary judgment to establish that the “reasonable-belief-of-entitlement-exclusion” applied.  The court found that they did so by first proving that the exclusion existed.  The court also found the insurer also proved that the mother did not know the driver, had never met him, did not give him permission to drive the car and did not know that he was driving at the time of the accident.  With the burden then shifted to the insured to offer controverting evidence, she was unable to do.  And based in part on testimony from the insured that she had told her daughter after a similar incident that the daughter needed to get her permission before she let anyone else drive the car, summary judgment in favor of the insurer was upheld.