New Maryland Uninsured Motorist Case

The Maryland Court of Appeals last month issued another opinion interpreting Maryland Insurance Code Annotated Section 19-509 in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. DeHaan.

Here, the Plaintiff’s night got off to a great start: the Baltimore Ravens won their first Super Bowl over the New York Giants, a night everyone in Baltimore remembers. On his way home from a party, Plaintiff stopped at a Shell Station in Baltimore County (near the old Westview drive-in movie theater) in his 1989 Chevrolet Blazer, which was insured under a State Farm automobile insurance policy that had $10,000.00 coverage in Personal Injury Protection benefits (PIP) and $100,000.00 coverage in uninsured motorist benefits.

After arriving at the gas station just after 1:00 a.m., Plaintiff put his keys on the driver’s side floorboard and entered the convenience store portion of the Shell station to make a purchase. Upon returning to his vehicle, Plaintiff found someone sitting in his car. The intruder shot him and drove away.

Plaintiff was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center and suffered substantial injuries and incurred approximately $70,000.00 in medical expenses. The bad guy, who shockingly did not have any insurance, was caught and convicted of attempted murder. Plaintiff’s personal injury attorney brought an uninsured motorist coverage claim to recover for his client’s injuries in Howard County Circuit Court.

The trial court granted Plaintiff’s lawyer’s motion for summary judgment that Plaintiff should receive both his PIP benefits and the uninsured motorist provisions of the car insurance policy. After the ruling was granted, State Farm paid Plaintiff the amount covered under the PIP provision, but appealed the trial court’s decision regarding the uninsured motorist claim, arguing that the trial court erred in concluding that the insured’s injuries arose out of the “use” of an automobile. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed, affirming the Howard County trial court’s ruling.

The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that the fact that the assailant was in the vehicle and was in control of the vehicle at the time of the incident did not constitute “use” under Maryland Code Ann., Ins. § 19-509 (2006) because the instrumentality of the injuries Plaintiff suffered was the handgun and not the use of the automobile.

I write this blog for plaintiffs and their lawyers. But, honestly, while I think the law should include this kind of injury under an insured individual’s uninsured motorist coverage, I do not think this accident, however unfortunate, comes within Maryland Code Ann., Ins. § 19-509 (2006). I agree with the Maryland Court of Appeals’ opinion.

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