JESSICA M. LEE, Plaintiff,
GEICO CHOICE INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation, Defendant.
Submitted: August 23, 2017
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment DENIED.
D. Pratcher, III, Esq., Weik Nitsche & Dougherty,
Attorney for Jessica M. Lee.
Michael K. DeSantis Esq., Law Office of Dawn L. Becker,
Attorney for GEICO Choice Insurance Company.
HONORABLE ANDREA L. ROCANELLI JUDGE.
an insurance dispute arising out of a motor vehicle accident
that took place on February 23, 2016. Prior to the accident,
Plaintiff Jessica Lee ("Plaintiff") had an
automobile insurance policy with Defendant GEICO Choice
Insurance Company ("GEICO") that covered her
vehicle ("Plaintiff's Auto Policy"). Following
the accident, Plaintiff settled with the tortfeasor for his
policy limits of $15, 000. Plaintiff also submitted a claim
to GEICO under Plaintiff's Auto Policy, but GEICO
informed Plaintiff that Plaintiff's Auto Policy had been
cancelled prior to the accident for her failure to make
time of the accident, Plaintiff resided in the same household
as her sister, Amie Lee ("Plaintiff's Sister").
Plaintiff's Sister had a separate insurance policy with
GEICO that provided Underinsured Motorist ("UIM")
coverage for those qualifying as insureds ("Sister's
Policy"). Plaintiff submitted a claim to GEICO as an
insured under her Sister's Policy for UIM coverage. GEICO
denied Plaintiff's claim based on an exclusion in the
Sister's Policy that voided coverage for bodily injury
sustained in an accident with a vehicle that is owned by an
insured, but which is uninsured ("owned-but-uninsured
exclusion"). That denial led to the instant lawsuit, in
which Plaintiff seeks UIM coverage under her Sister's
has moved for summary judgment contending that
Plaintiff's vehicle was uninsured at the time of the
accident and, therefore, that the owned-but- uninsured
exclusion acts to bar coverage. Plaintiff opposes GEICO's
motion on two grounds. First, Plaintiff's Auto Policy
with GEICO had not been effectively cancelled at the time of
the accident. Second, even assuming Plaintiff's Auto
Policy had been cancelled, GEICO failed to meet its burden to
show that the owned-but-uninsured exclusion applies to bar
coverage. This is the Court's decision on GEICO's
Motion for Summary Judgment.
Court may grant summary judgment only where the moving party
can "show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the
initial burden of proof and, once that is met, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party to show that a material issue
of fact exists. At the motion for summary judgment phase,
the Court must view the facts "in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party."
Plaintiff is an insured under her Sister's Policy with
undisputed that Plaintiff is an insured under her
Sister's Policy, which defines "insured" to
include "[r]elatives of [the named insured] if residents
of his household." Plaintiff and Plaintiff's Sister
are relatives and were residents of the same household on the
date of the accident. Therefore, Plaintiff qualifies as an
insured entitled to UIM coverage under her Sister's
GEICO cannot meet its burden to establish that the
owned-but-uninsured exclusion applies to bar
Delaware law, the insured bears the burden of establishing
that a loss falls under the coverage provisions of an
insurance policy. Once the insured does so, the burden
shifts to the insurer to establish that a policy exclusion
applies to bar coverage. Plaintiff met her burden in this case
by establishing that she is an insured under her Sister's
Policy and thereby entitled to UIM coverage.
denied UIM coverage for Plaintiff because of the
owned-but-uninsured exclusion in the Sister's Policy
which provides: "Bodily injury sustained by an injured
while occupying, or through being struck by an uninsured
motor vehicle owned by a insured or a relative is not
covered." GEICO cannot meet its burden with respect
to this exclusion for two reasons. First, under Delaware law,
UIM coverage is personal to the insured rather than
vehicle-related. Therefore, Plaintiff's UIM coverage
does not depend on the coverage status of her vehicle.
Second, any restrictions on UIM coverage are narrowly
construed,  such that a policy exclusion affecting
UIM coverage must be specifically authorized by statute and
not against public policy. GEICO cannot establish that
the owned-but-uninsured exclusion meets this test.
UIM coverage is personal to the insured.
owned-but uninsured exclusion cannot bar UIM coverage for
Plaintiff because UIM coverage is personal to the insured
under Delaware law. In Frank, the plaintiff was
injured in an accident while driving a vehicle insured with
Hartford Insurance Company, which paid the policy limit to
the plaintiff. Then the plaintiff sought to recover UIM
coverage under a separate policy with a different insurer
that covered two vehicles she jointly-owned with her husband
("Defendant Insurer").Although the plaintiff
qualified as an insured under that policy, the Defendant
Insurer denied coverage based on an exclusion
("other-motor-vehicle exclusion") that denied