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Uribe v. Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

September 30, 2014

MARTINA URIBE and CARLOTA URIBE, Appellants,
v.
MARYLAND AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE FUND, Appellee.

Date Submitted: June 2, 2014

On Appeal of the Decision of the Court of Common Pleas. AFFIRMED.

Andres Gutierrez de Cos, Esq., Andres de Cos, LLC, Attorney for Appellant.

Thomas J. Gerard, Esq. and Art C. Aranilla, Esq., Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. Attorneys for Appellees.

ORDER

Calvin L. Scott Judge

Introduction

Before the Court is Appellants/Plaintiffs-below Martina Uribe and Carlota Uribe's ("Appellants") appeal from the decision of the Court of Common Pleas granting Appellee/Defendant-below Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund's ("MAIF") motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and the record below. For the following reasons, the decision of the Court of Common Pleas is AFFIRMED.

Background

On April 12, 2013, the Appellants, two Delaware residents occupying the same vehicle, were involved in an automobile accident in Delaware. The vehicle was owed by Appellants' sister, Ofelia Contreras, and insured by MAIF. MAIF is an agency of the State of Maryland which performs a government function[1] and was created in order to provide insurance to "to those eligible persons that are unable to obtain it from an"[2] "insurer that is licensed to write motor vehicle liability insurance or motor vehicle physical damage insurance in [Maryland]."[3]When Ofelia Contreras obtained insurance through MAIF, she signed a waiver declining Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") coverage.

On June 26, 2013, the Appellants filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas against MAIF to recover PIP benefits under Delaware's No-Fault Statute, 21 Del. C. § 2118, for the injuries that they suffered as a result of the accident. On August 7, 2013, MAIF filed a Motion to Quash and Dismiss arguing that Appellants had failed to show that the court could exercise personal jurisdiction over MAIF. On August 23, 2013, the Court of Common Pleas heard oral argument. On September 23, 2013, the court granted the motion and this appeal followed.

Issues on Appeal

Appellants argue that the Court of Common Pleas improperly held that MAIF was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Delaware because MAIF had sufficient minimum contacts with Delaware. According to Appellants, the fact that the accident occurred in Delaware satisfies the requirements of Delaware's Long-Arm Statute, 10 Del. C. § 3104. Appellants also assert that MAIF's other contacts with Delaware include: deriving revenue from Delaware because its policies do not prohibit its insureds from driving in Delaware, previously filing actions against Delaware residents in Delaware courts, inspecting and adjusting claims in Delaware, submitting filings to the New Castle County Recorder of Deeds, and the alleged imputed ownership of property in Delaware owned by the State of Maryland.[4] Appellants argue that, since the policy at issue was issued in Elkton, Maryland, MAIF could anticipate that its insureds would operate the vehicle in Delaware. Based on these factors, Appellants contend that it was foreseeable to MAIF that it could be haled into a Delaware court. Appellants also assert that, by avoiding the jurisdiction of a Delaware court, MAIF is essentially abandoning its insureds and violating Delaware's No-Fault Statute.[5]

MAIF argues that the decision of the Court of Common Pleas should be affirmed for two reasons. First, MAIF argues that Appellants lack standing to sue because they do not fall within the persons eligible for benefits under ยง 2118. Second, MAIF argues that Appellants failed to meet their burden to show that MAIF had sufficient contacts with Delaware or that the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction was foreseeable. MAIF contends that neither the mere filing before the Recorder of Deeds or Maryland's ownership of property in Delaware constitutes MAIF's sufficient contact with ...


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