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Amica Mutual Insurance Co. v. Enterprise Rac Co. of Baltimore

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

April 11, 2014

AMICA MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a/s/o BEVERLY LATTIMER-JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ENTERPRISE RAC COMPANY of BALTIMORE, d/b/a NATIONAL CAR RENTAL, Defendant.

Submitted: January 27, 2014

Upon Consideration of Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s Motions for Summary Judgment DENIED

Christina M. Gafford, Esquire, Tybout Redfearn & Pell, Wilmington, Delaware for Plaintiff.

R. Stokes Nolte, Esquire, Reilly, Janiczek & McDevitt, P.C., Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant. Young, J.

ORDER

ROBERT B. YOUNG J.

SUMMARY

Amica Mutual Insurance Company ("Plaintiff") moves for summary judgment pursuant to Superior Court Rule 56. This matter arises from a subrogation claim filed by Plaintiff, seeking a determination that Enterprise RAC Company of Baltimore d/b/a National Car Rental ("Defendant") owed insurance coverage to Mrs. Beverly Lattimer-Jackson ("Mrs. Jackson"), pursuant to the rental policy. Defendant also moves for summary judgment in this action. The instant action stems from an accident that occurred in Maryland on September 5, 2010, involving a rental motor vehicle ("the Rental Vehicle"), rented by Roland DeLardge, but driven by Mrs. Jackson at the time of the accident. The Rental Vehicle was owned and insured by Defendant, which denied coverage for this accident, citing Md. Code. Trans. Section 18-102(b). Consequently, Plaintiff paid $27, 282.58 on behalf of Mrs. Jackson to cover expenses for the motor vehicle accident, for which Plaintiff seeks reimbursement from Defendant.

First, under a choice of law analysis, Maryland substantive law applies to this action. Therefore, Md. Code. Trans. Section 18-102(b) applies to the Master Rental Agreement executed between Defendant and the lessee, Roland DeLardge.

Second, at this stage, it is factually undetermined whether Roland DeLardge's wife received implicit permission from Roland DeLardge to operate the Rental Vehicle or to permit another to operate it. Therefore, whether Mrs. Jackson was an unauthorized permittee of Mrs. DeLardge, covered by Md. Code. Trans. Section 18-102(b), is a genuine issue of material fact for a jury to decide. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

On September 4, 2010, Roland DeLardge rented the Rental Vehicle from Defendant in Maryland. On September 5, 2010, Kimberly DeLardge ("Mrs. DeLardge"), wife of Roland DeLardge decided to take a shopping trip with her infant child and her stepmother, Mrs. Jackson. Mrs. DeLardge opted to take the Rental Vehicle on the shopping trip to accommodate the infant's car seat. Mrs. DeLardge also asked Mrs. Jackson to drive the Rental Vehicle, so that Mrs. DeLardge could sit in the back seat with her infant. Later, Mrs. Jackson was involved in a collision, while driving the Rental Vehicle. On September 10, 2010, Defendant denied coverage for the collision. As a result, Mrs. Jackson's insurer, Plaintiff, paid $27, 282.58 on behalf of Mrs. Jackson for the accident. Both Roland DeLardge and Mrs. DeLardge executed affidavits to those effects in this matter.

On September 25, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this matter, seeking reimbursement of the $27, 282.58 paid on behalf of Mrs. Jackson. On December 5, 2012, Defendant filed its Answer. Paragraph 4 of the Master Rental Agreement between Roland DeLardge and Defendant defines who is authorized to drive the vehicle:

Unless applicable law requires otherwise, the [Rental] Vehicle may NOT be driven by anyone except any Additional Authorized Driver and you. An "Additional Authorized Driver" is an individual who (i) is a capable and validly licensed driver, (ii) is at least 21 years of age... (iii) has your prior permission to drive the [Rental] Vehicle, and (iv) is either a member of your immediate family who permanently resides with you, or your business partner, employer, or fellow employee who drives the [Rental] Vehicle for business purposes. Your immediate family members means your mother, ...

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