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Robinson v. Erie Insurance Exchange

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 10, 2014

SHANNON ROBINSON AND BRYAN ROBINSON, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
ERIE INSURANCE EXCHANGE, Appellee (Defendant)

Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49D06-1107-PL-26871. The Honorable Thomas J. Carroll, Judge.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: George M. Plews, Sean M. Hirschten, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Freedom D. Villa, Mark R. Smith, Smith Fisher Maas & Howard, P.C., Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR AMICUS CURIAE THE INSURANCE INSTITUTE OF INDIANA, INC.: John C. Trimble, Richard K. Schoultz, Lewis Wagner, LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dickson, Chief Justice. Rucker, David, Massa, Rush, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 674

Dickson, Chief Justice.

This appeal challenges a grant of summary judgment in favor of an insurance company on the issue of whether its automobile policy provided uninsured motorists coverage for automobile property damage caused by a hit-and-run driver where no personal injury resulted. We affirm.

Plaintiffs Shannon Robinson and Bryan Robinson seek coverage for property damage under the uninsured motorists coverage of an automobile insurance policy issued by defendant Erie Insurance Exchange, arising from an accident where the Robinsons' insured vehicle was struck by a Jeep operated by a hit-and-run driver. Erie denied the Robinsons' claim, and the Robinsons brought this action. In response to the Robinsons' motion for summary judgment on the coverage issue, Erie requested summary judgment in its favor. Following written briefs and oral arguments from the parties, the trial court entered summary judgment for Erie.

The Robinsons appealed, urging that Gillespie v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., 850 N.E.2d 913 (Ind.Ct.App. 2006), trans. not sought, mandates that the Erie policy provide coverage for property damage sustained by their vehicle in the hit-and-run accident. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed summary judgment for Erie, concluding that the Robinsons' motion should have been granted. Robinson v. Erie Ins. Exch., 991 N.E.2d 961 (Ind.Ct.App. 2013). We granted transfer.

The relevant facts are not in dispute. Erie Insurance Exchange issued a family auto insurance policy to Shannon Robinson. The policy listed her son Bryan Robinson's 1998 Nissan Altima as a covered auto with Bryan as its principal driver. On March 27, 2011, Bryan was driving this Nissan without any passengers, when a Jeep ran a red light, struck his car, and left the scene. The identity of the driver and owner of the Jeep are unknown. Bryan suffered no personal injuries, but the accident totaled his car. In response to the Robinsons' claim for damages to Bryan's Nissan, Erie denied coverage. Because the pertinent facts are undisputed and this case only involves the interpretation of insurance policy contract language, it represents a question of law and we review it de novo . See State Auto. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Flexdar, Inc., 964 N.E.2d 845, 848 (Ind. 2012).

The Erie " Family Auto Policy" in effect on the date of the accident provided coverage for both bodily injury and property damage liability, medical payments, and uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage. It did not provide collision or comprehensive coverage to the insured automobile. Under its uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage, the Erie policy promised to " pay damages for bodily injury and property damage that the law entitles 'anyone we protect' or the legal representative of 'anyone we protect' to recover from the owner or operator of an 'uninsured motor vehicle' or 'underinsured motor vehicle.'" Appellant's App'x at 21 (quoted terms in bold are expressly defined

Page 675

in the policy). The term " uninsured motor vehicle" is defined by the policy ...


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