Grand Prairie lawyers and those in Irving, Arlington, Dencanville, De Soto, Cedar Hill, Mansfield and other places in DFW need to now about this opinion.
The opinion is a case out of the San Antonio Court of Appeals. It is styled, Ruben L. Briones v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Here is some relevant information.
This is an appeal from a take nothing summary judgment. This court ruled that the trial court erred in granting the summary judgment because there was a genuine issue as to material facts, namely whether the tractor-trailer in which Briones was a passenger at the time of his injuries was furnished or available for his regular use, as that term is used in his policy of insurance.
On or about November 5, 1985, Briones was a passenger in the sleeping compartment of a tractor-trailer owned by his employer, Cervantes Trucking Company, which, at the time of the accident, was being driven by another employee of Cervantes Trucking, one Mr. Juan Barbosa. The accident involved only the one vehicle in which Briones was riding. Neither the truck nor its driver was covered by liability insurance at the time of the accident. Briones sought to recover under the uninsured clause of his family automobile insurance policy.
In the trial court the parties stipulated to all evidence and specifically that the only portion of the insurance contract applicable was the uninsured motorist clause which reads:
Uninsured motor vehicle does not include any vehicle or equipment:
… owned by or furnished or available for the regular use of you or any family member.
The parties further stipulated:
The only question that will be litigated between us, whether it be by summary judgment or trial, will be whether the facts show that, at the time of the accident, the vehicle in which Mr. Briones was riding was one which was “furnished or available for the regular use of” Mr. Briones.
A review of the proof shows that Briones was an employee of Cervantes Trucking Company, the owner of the truck in question. His principal duty was to drive trucks assigned to him. He customarily used any one of the five vehicles owned by Cervantes, as and when assigned to him by Cervantes. He had driven the truck in question regularly for a period of four years, from 1981 to 1985. During the trip in question, as on other trips, Briones and his co-employee would take turns driving and sleeping.
In reviewing this case, the court looked at the uninsured motorist (UM) statutes found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1952.101 thru 1952.110.
The court noted that the purpose of the statutes was to be the “protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles.” This was a contractual benefit for which premiums were paid by the insured.
The court said, “It is doubtful that when the uninsured provision was purchased, Briones believed that he would not be protected if involved in an accident while a passenger in an uninsured motor vehicle owned by his employer, and driven by an uninsured co-employee.”
In reviewing Texas law, this court noted, there is one key to determining whether a particular exclusionary provision in an uninsured motorist policy is valid or invalid. This is whether the invocation of the exclusion would, under the circumstances of the particular case under consideration, operate to deprive an insured of the protection required by the Texas UM Statute.
In ruling in favor of Briones, the court said, “… we conclude that under the facts of this case and the uncontroverted evidence, that to deny Briones recovery under the uninsured motorist clause of his family policy would be to frustrate the intent of the legislature to provide protection for conscientious motorists from “financial loss caused by negligent financially irresponsible motorists” as is mandated by the inclusion of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in the Texas Insurance Code.”
Any time an insurance company denies benefits under an uninsured motorist provision of an insurance policy, an experienced Insurance Law Attorney should be consulted.