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Estate of Mason v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Maine

March 28, 2017

ESTATE OF REBECCA L. MASON et al.
v.
AMICA MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY

          Argued: November 8, 2016

          Steven D. Silin, Esq., and Robert H. Furbish, Esq. (orally), Berman & Simmons, P.A., Lewiston, for appellant Estate of Rebecca L. Mason.

          Sheldon J. Tepler, Esq., Hardy Wolf & Downing, Lewiston, for appellant Estate of Logan Dam.

          Martica S. Douglas, Esq. (orally), Douglas, Denham, Buccina & Ernst, Portland, for appellee Amica Mutual Insurance Company.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] The Estates of Rebecca L. Mason and Logan Dam (the Estates) appeal from summary judgments entered by the Superior Court (Oxford County, Clifford, J.) in favor of Amica Mutual Insurance Company (Amica) on the Estates consolidated actions to reach and apply insurance money toward the satisfaction of judgments they obtained against Amicas insured. See 24-A M.R.S. § 2904 (2016). The trial court concluded that Amica is entitled to judgments as a matter of law on the Estates complaints because a "regular use" exclusion in the insureds automobile insurance policy prohibits the Estates from reaching the insurance money. We affirm the judgments.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonprevailing parties, the Estates, the summary judgment record reveals the following undisputed facts.[1] See, e.g., Estate of Frost, 2016 ME 132, ¶ 15, 146 A.3d 118. On January 7, 2012, in West Paris, Rebecca L. Mason and Logan Dam were passengers in a vehicle driven by Kristina I. Lowe. Lowe negligently caused the vehicle to crash in a single-vehicle accident, and Mason and Dam died from injuries they sustained.[2]

         [¶3] The vehicle was owned by Lowes friend, Dakota Larson. Larsons drivers license had been suspended in November 2011, and Lowe had agreed to drive Larson to work, to school, and to visit friends. When Lowes own car broke down on December 23, 2011, Larson authorized her to use his car as if it was her own, as long as she continued to give him rides, until her car was fixed.[3] Around the same time that Lowes car broke down, Larson left town for several days. He gave Lowe the only set of keys to his car, and Lowe used his car for her own purposes while he was gone. When he returned, and until the accident on January 7, 2012, Lowe continued to use Larsons car to give him rides and for her own purposes.

         [¶4] Lowe required transportation for her full-time job and, while her car was unavailable, she did not have access to any vehicle other than Larsons. She used Larsons car to drive to and from work, to visit relatives, to pick up friends, to go tanning, and to go to the gym. She kept Larsons car at her familys home, and she paid for gas most of the time.

         [¶5] When the accident occurred, Lowe was a resident at the home of her mother, Melissa J. Stanley. Stanley had a personal auto insurance policy issued by Amica that provided for $300, 000 in liability coverage. The policy excluded from coverage liability arising out of the use of a vehicle "furnished for the regular use of any family member." The policy defined "family member" as "a person related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption, who is a resident of your household."

         [¶6] After the accident, the Estates brought wrongful death actions against Lowe, and the parties stipulated to the entry of judgments against Lowe in favor of each of the Estates in the amount of one million dollars.

         [¶7] The action at issue in this appeal began when, in July 2014, the Estates filed separate reach-and-apply actions against Amica in the Superior Court (Oxford County) seeking to apply insurance money from Stanleys policy to the judgments against Lowe. See 24-A M.R.S. § 2904. On Amicas unopposed motion, the court (Clifford, J.) consolidated the cases. The Estates jointly moved for summary judgment and Amica filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. In a written order dated January 18, 2016, the court concluded as matter of law that the "regular use" exclusion in Stanleys policy applied to preclude coverage for Lowes negligent use of Larsons car and that, therefore, the Estates could not reach and apply insurance money from Stanleys policy toward satisfaction of the judgments against Lowe. The court therefore determined that Amica was ...


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