Georgia Supreme Court ruled two days ago that a Senate member is not allowed to stack Georgia auto insurance policies with an insurance giant because the policy was not registered under his name. A local court initially came up with the decision but it was overturned by CA when the Senator filed for an appeal.
The high court decision is a reversal of a previous lower court decision in an auto insurance case which involved Georgia Senator Cecil Staton and State Farm Insurance.
In a 5-to-2 decision prepared by Justice Hugh P. Thompson, the high court concluded that the Court of Appeals made errors last year when it ruled that Staton was entitled to stack the uninsured motorist coverage from his employer’s insurance policies. It would have covered vehicles that were not involved in the car accident which caused him severe injuries.
In 2003, Staton engaged in a vehicle collision while driving a vehicle owned by his employer, Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc. The vehicle, insured by State Farm, was registered to under the company’s name. The court made it clear that it was not insured under Staton’s name, who was an officer and major shareholder for the company.
Records from State Farm reveal that Smyth & Helwys owned two other vehicles which are insured separately by the same provider. State Farm records also show that Smyth & Helwys, and only Smyth & Helwys, was the insured party under the declaration pages.
Each policy holds $100,000 in uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This part of auto insurance covers motorists who are either uninsured or underinsured. Staton wanted to stack 3 policies to acquire $300,000 in claims.
Local trial court side with State Farm saying Staton was only entitled to coverage worth $100,000. However, Staton appealed and the Court of Appeals (CA) sided with him. It declared that the “name insured” on State Farm’s policy is ambiguous, and for this reason CA says the Senator has the right to expect coverage. CA further state that Staton had reasonable expectations regarding the stacking of the policies.
But Supreme Court overturned CA’s decision saying that the “named insured” term and the auto insurance policies were not ambiguous. It maintains that Smyth & Helwys alone is the insured party covered by the policy.
Justice Thompson says they cannot accept CA’s reasoning which says the policy was ambiguous because it did not name a specific person. Instead, it name the publishing company, which a corporation. Supreme Court ruled that “named insured” does not necessarily have to be a human being.