Allstate Ins. Co. v. Lyons

CourtSupreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
Writing for the CourtPOMEROY; McKUSICK, C. J., and WERNICK
Citation400 A.2d 349
Decision Date10 April 1979

Page 349

400 A.2d 349

Richard K. LYONS et al.
Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.
April 10, 1979.

Solman, Page & Hunter by Richard N. Solman, Caribou (orally), for plaintiff.

Barnes & Sylvester by Torrey A. Sylvester (orally), Robert F. Ward, Houlton, for defendants.


POMEROY, Justice.

In this declaratory judgment action, Allstate Insurance Company seeks relief from

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a Superior Court judgment holding Allstate responsible for the defense of, and such damages as may be recovered in, a negligence action instituted by Richard K. Lyons, and his father John R. Lyons, against the administrator of the estate of Victor B. MacArthur.

That action arose out of an accident involving an automobile upon which Allstate has issued a liability policy. At the time of the accident Victor B. MacArthur had been permitted to drive the car by Wayne Barrett, the son of the named insured and owner. Such permission was given notwithstanding an express prohibition by Wayne's father not to let anyone else drive the car.

The issue presented to us is whether, given the circumstances surrounding the accident, Victor B. MacArthur was an additional "insured" under the terms of the liability policy issued by Allstate.

We deny the appeal.

On the evening of August 29, 1975, on a road near Moro, an automobile operated by Victor B. MacArthur left the road and struck a tree. The crash caused MacArthur's death and that of one of his passengers, Wayne Barrett, as well as personal injuries to a third passenger, Richard K. Lyons. At the time of the accident the three young men, after a visit to a local recreation center, were en route to pick up Barrett's mother.

The trial Justice made the following express findings:

First, that Wayne Barrett had general permission from his father to use the Dodge automobile and at the time and place of the accident, the use was within the scope of that permission with the exception of its operation by Victor MacArthur. The Court finds factually that Wayne was under a continuing express restriction against permitting others to drive his father's car. Although since his father had given no express permission for this particular trip, there was no express permission as to this particular trip. This finding relates to a continuing restriction. The Court finds as a fact that Victor MacArthur had Wayne Barrett's permission to operate the automobile. That Victor MacArthur was unaware of the owner's express restriction and that Victor MacArthur reasonably believed his operation of the vehicle was consented to by the owner. In other words, that Wayne had authority to give him permission. The Court further finds that at the time of Victor MacArthur's operation there was no emergency existing which warranted disregard of the owner's restriction and that Victor MacArthur's operation was in violation of that express restriction.

From these facts the presiding Justice concluded that MacArthur was an additional insured as defined in the Omnibus Clause of Allstate's liability insurance policy. That clause provides in pertinent part:

Allstate will pay for an insured all damages which the insured shall be legally obligated to pay because of:

1. bodily injury sustained by any person, and

2. injury to or destruction of property,

Arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use, including loading and unloading, of the owned automobile or a non-owned automobile.

Allstate will defend, at its own expense and with counsel of its choice, any lawsuit, even if groundless, false or fraudulent, against any insured for such damages which are payable under the terms of this Section, but may make such settlement of any claim or suit as it deems expedient.

The following persons are insured under this Section

1. The named insured with respect to the owned or a non-owned automobile provided the use of such non-owned automobile is with the permission, or reasonably believed to be with the permission, of the owner and is within the scope of such permission;

2. Any resident of the named insured's household with respect to the owned automobile;

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3. Any other person with respect to the owned automobile, provided the use thereof is with the permission of the named insured and within the scope of such permission; (emphasis supplied)

4. Any relative with respect to a non-owned private passenger automobile or trailer not regularly furnished for use of such relative, provided the use by such relative is with the permission, or reasonably believed to be with the permission, of the owner and is within the scope of such permission; and

5. Any other person or organization, but only with respect to his or its liability because of acts or omissions by a person who is insured under any of the four preceding paragraphs; provided the automobile, if a non-owned automobile, is not owned or hired by such other person or organization.

Definitions of words used under this Section

(a) "insured" Means any person or organization listed as insured in this Section;

(b) "named insured" Means the individual named in the declarations, and his spouse if a resident of the same household; . . .

Every party seeking declaratory relief must address at the threshold a question of justiciability. Jurisdiction under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, 14 M.R.S.A. §§ 5951 Et seq., turns upon the presence of a real controversy. The plaintiff must set forth a claim of right or obligation buttressed by a sufficiently substantial interest to warrant judicial protection and assert it against a defendant having an adverse interest in contesting it. Jones v. Maine Highway Comm., Me., 238 A.2d 226, 229 (1968); See also, American Motorists Insurance Co. v. LaCourse, Me., 314 A.2d...

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