Dallas lawyers who deal with uninsured motorist cases need to be knowledgeable of this case from the San Antonio Court of Appeals. It is a 1990, opinion and is styled, Briones v. State Farm. Here is the relevant information.
Briones appealed a take nothing summary judgment granted in his suit against State Farm seeking recovery on his family automobile insurance policy under the uninsured motorists clause, for bodily injuries suffered in a one vehicle automobile accident.
Briones claims the Trial Court erred in granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment because there is a genuine issue as to material facts regarding the one remaining issue to be litigated by the parties, namely whether the tractor-trailer in which Briones was a passenger at the time of his bodily injuries was furnished or available for his regular use.
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. 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.
If an employee regularly drives a vehicle in his or her employment, and if the driving of such a motor vehicle constitutes the principal duty of the employment, and if a number of vehicles in a pool are available to that employee, subject either to random assignment or assignment based upon the nature of the job involved, or selection by the employee, then all vehicles in the pool are considered as a matter of law to be vehicles furnished for the employee’s regular use.
It is the regular use of other automobiles which is excluded by the term, and if an employer assigns an employee a specific automobile or assigns him a number of automobiles, any one of which he may use for a particular trip, in either event that automobile is furnished “for regular use.”
The Texas Insurance Code mandates the inclusion of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in automobile liability insurance coverage….
…. The purpose of the statute as stated therein, is “the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured or underinsured motor vehicles….”
…. The legislature had as its initial objective the protection of conscientious motorists from “financial loss caused by negligent financially irresponsible motorists….”
The Texas statute states its purposes to be the “protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles.” These are its key words…. This was a contractual benefit for which premiums, presumably computed in the light of the respective risk exposures, were paid by the insureds in each instance; and to permit one policy, or the other, to be reduced or rendered ineffective by a liability limiting clause would be to frustrate the insurance benefits which the statute sought to guarantee and which were purchased by the respective insureds.
It is doubted whether most Texas motorists understand that the amount of the coverage for which they are paying is only recoverable depending upon the limits of the liability coverage carried by the negligent driver and the peculiar facts of the particular accident.
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.
As this court read Texas cases, 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 Uninsured Motorists Statute.
Having taken this position, the court concluded 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.