An Unknown Purpose Can’t Make a Story

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Zarah-Marie Neme and Samuel Magura appealed the summary judgment dismissal of their claims against Progressive Direct Insurance Company.

In Zarah-Marie Neme and Samuel M. Magura, spouses v. Progressive Direct Insurance CompanyNo. 38252-4-III, Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3 (July 14, 2022) The Court of Appeals resolved a dispute regarding the delivery of a new car.

EVENTS

In 2019, Samuel Magura received car insurance from Progressive. The period of the policy began on May 23, 2019, until November 23, 2019. The information page of the policy listed the Magura as the named insured and the 2016 Subaru Legacy as the covered vehicle. Before he arrived on 19 September 2019, Mr. Magura’s wife, Zarah-Marie Neme, was appointed as a driver for the plan but since she lives outside the country, she was not listed as having insurance.

The policy provided that Progressive would pay damages for any personal injury or property damage for which the insured was found liable. The policy also provided that Progressive would indemnify or defend against damages. However, this policy does not include “bodily injury or property damage resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of any vehicle owned. [the insured] . . . except for a covered vehicle.” The statute defined “covered vehicles” to include the vehicle shown on the statute’s information sheet and “any other vehicle.” “Additional vehicles” is defined as a vehicle that you own at the time of the policy that does not replace the vehicle shown on the declaration page if:

  1. we insure all other vehicles you own;
  2. the additional vehicle is not covered by any other insurance;
  3. you notify us within 30 days of becoming the owner of the additional vehicle; and
  4. you pay additional fees.

At no time did Mr Magura give any information about the new car he had bought, or was planning to buy. After the call, an updated information page on Progressive’s website showed an amount of $93.53 with the 2016 Legacy as the only vehicle covered.

On September 20, Plaintiffs purchased a 2019 Subaru Impreza. On October 22, Ms. Neme was involved in a car accident while driving the 2019 Impreza. Following the accident,

Mr Magura called on Progressive to make a decision. The customer service representative who answered the call informed Mr. Magura that the 2019 Impreza was not listed on the policy as a covered vehicle. Progressive later sent Plaintiffs a letter denying coverage of the claim, since the 2019 Impreza was not covered by the policy.

The plaintiffs later described the 2019 Impreza as a total loss, even though they had to continue paying for the car. The following year, the Plaintiffs were sued by another party in the accident for damages resulting from the collision. Based on the original denial of coverage, Progressive did not defend Plaintiffs in this suit.

The plaintiffs then sued Progressive.

ENJOYMENT

Plaintiffs’ arguments against Progressive all turn on whether the 2019 Subaru Impreza was a covered vehicle under Progressive’s policy, either because of the policy or through Progressive’s warranty.

There is no evidence that the 2019 Impreza was a covered vehicle under Progressive’s policy. The 2019 Impreza is not listed in the policy as a covered vehicle. Nor did the Impreza qualify as an accessory vehicle, given that more than 30 days had passed since the Plaintiffs became the owner of the Impreza.

Because the Impreza was not a covered vehicle, Plaintiffs cannot support their claims for breach of contract.

Did Progressive Say or Do Something to Indicate That the 2019 Subaru Impreza Was a Covered Vehicle?

Progressive did not say or do anything that would have led Plaintiffs to believe that the 2019 Impreza was a covered vehicle under the terms of the policy. Progressive also reported an increase in money for Mr. Magura, but this was based on the addition of Mrs. Neme to the plan. The page that was released later listed both Mr. Magura and Ms. Neme was listed as insured, but the only vehicle covered was a 2016 Subaru Legacy.

If a person wants to insure a new car, he must advise the insurer about the purchase, the purpose of the insurance, the car’s license plate number and who should be the insured. Magura added his wife as an insured but did not disclose the insurance he purchased and needed the insurance to service the 2019 Impreza. Failure to do so prevents Magura and Neme from obtaining insurance.

(c) 2022 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to working as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance, insurance litigation, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He has practiced law in California for over 44 years as an insurance and claims attorney and over 54 years in the insurance business. He can be reached at zalma@zalma.com.

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