|August 21, 2013|
Previously published on June 12, 2013
In the matter of Robert Gatti v. Mary Foran-Knell, et al., CV-09-5030360-S, Attorney Joseph J. Arcata, III successfully obtained summary judgment in favor of the Firm's client, Universal Underwriters Insurance Company, in an underinsured motorist coverage case which centered on a fleet policyholder's election to reduce underinsured motorist benefits for the company's employees.
By way of background, the plaintiff, Robert Gatti, was employed by Glastonbury Cycle Center, Inc., a commercial enterprise which sells and services motorcycles. After being injured in an accident while operating a company-owned motorcycle, Mr. Gatti filed suit against the alleged tortfeasor and Universal Underwriters, his employer's insurer, seeking underinsured motorist benefits under his employer's insurance policy. Prior to the accident, the vice president of Glastonbury Cycle Center, Inc. had executed a form which lowered the underinsured motorist coverage provided by the policy to the state minimum for all employees of the company.
The issue presented in the case was whether the insured, a fleet policyholder, was required to strictly comply with Conn. Gen. Stat. § 38a-336(a)(2), which governs waivers and reductions in underinsured motorist coverage. The plaintiff argued that strict compliance with the statute was required, that the reduction in coverage form signed by the named insured did not comply with the statute and that the named insured lacked the informed consent required to effectuate such a reduction.
In siding with Universal Underwriters and upholding the validity of the coverage reduction, Judge Trial Referee Richard Rittenband held that a commercial fleet policyholder, such as Glastonbury Cycle Center, Inc., is not a member of the class of consumers which the legislature sought to protect when it enacted Conn. Gen. Stat. § 38a-336(a)(2). Further, Judge Rittenband held that the vice president of Glastonbury Cycle Center, Inc. reasonably relied upon the advice of his insurance agent when signing the election of coverage form, and thus, the reduction in coverage was sufficiently valid.