Sunday, February 25, 2007

Heffernan v. Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Co. (Maryland U.S.D.C.) (Not Approved for Publication)

Filed February 21, 2007--Opinion by Judge Catherine C. Blake. (Not approved for publication.)

In April 2003, 17-year-old Mallory Heffernan was seriously injured when the driver of the car she was in lost control and hit a truck while driving in Delaware. She survived the crash but died shortly afterwards. Ms. Heffernan's father appears to have had the use of one of the cars belonging to his employer in connection with his employment as a sales director stationed in New Jersey, but this car was not involved in the accident.

The Heffernans sued Lumbermens, claiming that the policy Lumbermens had issued to the Mr. Heffernan's employer applied to them and/or their daughter, and specifically provided uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (collectively "UIM") applicable to the accident which killed Ms. Heffernan because Mr. McMahon was an uninsured or underinsured driver. Lumbermens moved for summary judgment, arguing that the policy was unambiguously limited to cars owned by the employer, thus no coverage exists because the car involved in the accident did not belong to the employer. The Heffernans have responded to the summary judgment motion by seeking time for discovery, and they have supported this request with an affidavit identifying specific questions they would ask a Lumbermens' representative in a deposition.

Held: The Heffernans' affidavit identifies policy ambiguities which not only support the need for discovery but preclude the court from deciding the terms of the insurance contract as a matter of the law of any state at this time. Thus, the Heffernans were permitted to conduct limited discovery as requested in their affidavit.

The Court's opinion is available in PDF. The order is also available in PDF.

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