Spruill v. Westfield, Allstate and Casualty – UIM Lawsuit Weighed by North Carolina Appellate Court

A driver suing for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage benefits prevailed in his quest to continue the case, as the North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled the trial court was right to deny summary judgment to defendant insurers. construction road

In Spruill v. Westfield, Allstate and Casualty, justices determined the lower court properly considered plaintiff an “insured” person under the Westfield policy, and further that the policies held by both Westfield and Allstate should be pro-rated.

This case stemmed from an auto accident that occurred in November 2012 while plaintiff, a construction company employee, was directing traffic for the company while on U.S. Highway 13. He was struck by a driver in a car traveling northbound. At the time, plaintiff was acting in the course and scope of employment, as he was helping his co-worker back up a tractor trailer onto the highway from the construction site. Plaintiff was a supervisor at the site, where workers were building a new Wal-Mart. He and another worker walked out onto the median of the highway to help the truck back out by stopping traffic in the opposite direction. He was wearing an orange and yellow reflective vest and was standing within the highway median when he was hit. 

Plaintiffs’s personal injuries as a result of the car accident were described as “catastrophic” and “permanent.” He suffered multiple fractures in his left leg, fractures in both ankles, and numerous internal injuries. He had to undergo multiple surgeries and incurred more than $200,000 in medical expenses, lost income, and other special damages.

Because he was at work at the time of the incident, he was able to collect workers’ compensation benefits, which covered his medical expenses and part of his lost wages. Westfield was the provider of this policy, as well as a $1 million commercial package policy to plaintiff’s employer for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Plaintiff also had a personal auto liability policy that afforded up to $250,000 in UM/UIM coverage.

Plaintiff filed a complaint in 2014 against Westfield, Allstate, Casualty, Discovery, and the driver of the car that struck him. The court dismissed the case against Discovery and the other driver after a consent agreement. Plaintiff then asserted he was entitled to recover more than $250,000 from the other defendants.

Westfield sought summary judgment, arguing it should not have to provide UIM coverage to plaintiff, who responded with his own motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and denied defendant insurer’s. The court also ruled plaintiff was entitled to a declaratory judgment in his favor.

Westfield appealed, arguing plaintiff was not an insured because he was not occupying the work truck at the time of his injury. The appellate court first had to note that it was actually Virginia law that applied here because, even though this accident happened in North Carolina, the automobile contract was entered into in Virginia, meaning that state’s rules apply. So the court looked at how Virginia handled similar cases, and it found the state high court held that so long as there was a causal relationship between the incident and the commercial vehicle, coverage should apply. In this case, plaintiff was assisting in the operation of the commercial truck by helping the driver maneuver it out onto the highway. Therefore, the justices ruled, plaintiff was, in fact, an insured.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Spruill v. Westfield, Allstate and Casualty, Dec. 6, 2016, North Carolina Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:

Calderon v. American Family Ins. – UM/UIM Coverage Not Offset by Med-Pay, Nov. 16, 2016, Greensboro Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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