Wayne County Circuit Court; Docket No. 84-424143-CR; Unpublished
Judge Susan D. Borman; Written Opinion
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
In this written Opinion by Judge Susan Borman, the Court held that defendant Auto-Club was under an obligation to provide uninsured motorist coverage to plaintiff under the unique circumstances of this particular case. Plaintiff had recently immigrated to this country and could neither speak nor read English very well. He met with a sales agent of defendant for purposes of buying automobile insurance and told the agent that he wanted "full coverage." When the agent asked him what he meant by full coverage, plaintiff replied "everything they had." Plaintiff did not specifically know what type of coverages were available, including uninsured motorist coverages. Defendant's agent issued a policy of insurance to plaintiff but did not include uninsured motorist coverage. Plaintiff was subsequently involved in a very serious hit and run accident and sustained severe injuries. After the accident, he learned he did not have uninsured motorist coverage and filed this lawsuit to obtain recovery of those benefits.
Judge Borman cited an earlier decision of the Court of Appeals in Dixon v DAIIE (Item No. 582) which held that generally, an insurer is under no duty to advise a client about the availability of uninsured motorist coverage. However, under the facts and circumstances of this case, such a duty did exist. Defendant's sales agent testified that it was his job to advise persons regarding any questions they had concerning coverage. Moreover, plaintiff, who was unskilled in English, specifically asked for "full coverage" and did not get it. Expert witness testimony at trial revealed that the standard of care regarding the writing of automobile liability insurance coverage was to sell uninsured motorist coverage to any customer who specifically requested "full coverage."
The Court also cited the fact that Defendant's sales agent testified that if the specific subject of uninsured motorist coverage had come up, he would have advised against it because of his opinion that it was duplicative.
Citing the case of Hearn v Rickenbacker, 140 Mich App 525 (1985) that "there is a duty for insurance companies to deal fairly with their customers apart from any contractual obligations owed," Judge Borman held that under the facts of this case, Defendant's sales agent should have done more. At the very least, he was negligent for not making further inquiry and was not aware of the reasons why one might desire to have uninsured motorist coverage. Accordingly, defendant is liable to provide for coverage.