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Waring v. Moore

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 22, 2013

Keena Waring, Appellant,
v.
William Moore, et al., Appellees.

Submitted March 5, 2013

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CAV-191-11) (Hon. John Ramsey Johnson, Trial Judge)

Brandi S. Nave for appellant.

James C. Mehigan for appellees.

Before Easterly and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Ferren, Senior Judge.

McLeese, Associate Judge:

This case presents the question whether a taxicab involved in an accident was "uninsured" under District of Columbia law, thereby triggering uninsured-vehicle coverage. The trial court concluded that the taxicab at issue was not "uninsured." We reverse.

I.

The parties do not dispute the following facts. While driving a vehicle insured by AIG, Ms. Waring was involved in an accident with a taxicab driven by Mr. Moore. Ms. Waring initially filed a claim with Mr. Moore's insurance company, which disclaimed coverage for the incident on the ground that Mr. Moore had failed to provide timely notice of the accident pursuant to the terms of his insurance contract. Ms. Waring then sought recovery from AIG under a provision in the insurance policy providing coverage for damages suffered in accidents involving uninsured vehicles. AIG rejected Ms. Waring's claim.

Ms.Waring subsequently sued AIG for breach of contract, arguing that Mr. Moore was "uninsured" for the purposes of AIG's uninsured-vehicle coverage.[1] The trial court granted summary judgment for AIG, concluding that a taxicab covered by an insurance policy cannot be considered uninsured, because D.C. Code § 50-314 (c) makes taxicab insurers absolutely liable for claims brought against the driver of the insured taxicab.

II.

To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a party "must establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Northbrook Ins. Co. v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 626 A.2d 915, 917 (D.C. 1993). In reviewing orders granting summary judgment, this court conducts an independent examination of the record and applies the same standard as the trial court. Id. We construe the record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Id. "This court reviews both trial court decisions granting summary judgment and questions of statutory interpretation de novo." District of Columbia v. Place, 892 A.2d 1108, 1110-11 (D.C. 2006).

The trial court and the parties viewed the issue in this case as one of statutory construction: whether Mr. Moore's taxicab was an uninsured vehicle within the meaning of D.C. Code § 31-2406 (f) (2001-2012). Section 31-2406 (f) requires automobile insurers to include in their policies coverage for accidents involving uninsured motor vehicles. See also Macci v. Allstate Ins. Co., 917 A.2d 634, 636 (D.C. 2007). Section 31-2406 (f)(1)(B) defines "uninsured motor vehicle" as including motor vehicles that are "covered by a motor vehicle liability policy of insurance but [as to which] the insurer denies coverage for any reason . . . ." In determining whether AIG's obligation to provide uninsured-vehicle coverage was triggered, we consider as well the wording of the insurance policy. See, e.g., Hill v. Maryland Cas. Co., 620 A.2d 1336, 1337 & n.2 (D.C. 1993). That policy provides for uninsured-vehicle coverage, and defines "uninsured motor vehicle" as including vehicles "for which an insuring or bonding company denies coverage." Neither party has suggested that the insurance policy's definition of "uninsured motor vehicle" should be construed differently from the statutory definition of the term. We therefore focus, as the trial court and the parties have, on the language of § 31-2406 (f)(1)(B).

As previously noted, the provision requiring uninsured-vehicle coverage defines "uninsured motor vehicle" as including motor vehicles that are "covered by a motor vehicle liability policy of insurance but [as to which] the insurer denies coverage for any reason . . . ." D.C. Code § 31-2406 (f)(1)(B). The trial court appears to have assumed that Mr. Moore's insurer "denied coverage" with respect to the accident at issue.[2] The trial court reasoned, however, that Mr. Moore's taxicab could not be viewed as "uninsured, " because a separate provision, D.C. Code ยง 50-314 (c), made Mr. Moore's insurer absolutely liable for any claim in connection with the accident at ...


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