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Hughes v. Essentia Insurance Co.

2022 COA 49. No. 20CA1356. Automobile Insurance—Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Benefits—Personal Injuries.

May 5, 2022

Plaintiff insured two classic cars under an automobile insurance policy (policy) with defendant, Essentia Insurance Company. As a condition of this insurance, plaintiff was required to have and separately insure a “regular use vehicle.” The policy explicitly excepted regular use vehicles from its uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. Plaintiff was driving her regular use vehicle when she was injured in a car accident. She sought to recover UM/UIM benefits under the policy, but defendant denied coverage because she wasn’t using one of the classic cars at the time of the accident. Plaintiff sued, and defendant moved for summary judgment. The trial court concluded that the policy’s regular use vehicle exclusion adhered to CRS § 10-4-609 because plaintiff was protected through her regular use vehicle insurance policy, and it granted the motion.

On appeal, plaintiff contended that the trial court erred by granting the motion for summary judgment based on an erroneous application of Colorado law. In DeHerrera v. Sentry Insurance Co., 30 P.3d 167 (Colo. 2001), the Colorado Supreme Court held that UM/UIM benefits cover persons injured by uninsured or underinsured motorists and can’t be tied to the occupancy of a certain vehicle. Accordingly, the policy’s regular use vehicle exclusion was contrary to law. Therefore, plaintiff was entitled to recover UM/UIM benefits under the policy, and the trial court erred in granting summary judgment.

The summary judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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