Glens Falls Ins. Co. v. Sybalsky

Decision Date30 September 1997
Docket NumberNo. 16479,16479
Citation46 Conn.App. 313,699 A.2d 258
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals

Christopher W. Bromson, Windsor Locks, for appellants (defendants in the first case, plaintiffs in the second case).

Lloyd D. Pedersen, Hartford, for appellee (plaintiff in the first case, defendant in the second case).


LAVERY, Judge.

The plaintiffs in the second case, Maria Mason Sybalsky and Julia Sybalsky, 1 appeal from the judgment of the trial court denying their application to correct an arbitration award and granting the defendant's application to correct the award. On appeal, the plaintiffs contend that the trial court incorrectly incorporated Connecticut's minimum underinsured motorist coverage requirements, as determined by New York law, into the plaintiffs' insurance policy, which was issued by the defendant. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts and procedural history are necessary for the resolution of this appeal. On May 30, 1991, the plaintiffs were injured in a two car automobile collision with an underinsured driver, David Emery. At the time of the collision, the plaintiffs were insureds under a certain automobile policy issued by the defendant, which had been executed in New York. The insurance policy at issue provided for $50,000 in underinsured motorist coverage and $340,000 in liability coverage per occurrence. The plaintiffs had four vehicles insured under this policy.

Subsequent to the collision, the defendant maintained that, under the policy at issue, its underinsured motorist obligations had a limit of $50,000. The plaintiffs, however, contended that they were entitled to $1,360,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, as a function of "stacking" the $340,000 coverage on each of their four insured vehicles. Pursuant to the terms of the policy, the plaintiffs' claim was submitted to arbitration. At arbitration, the plaintiffs argued that since the collision occurred in Connecticut, the New York insurance contract should be reformed to reflect the underinsured motorist benefits of $340,000 per accident, which is the amount of liability coverage purchased by the plaintiffs. In addition, the plaintiffs continued to assert that they had $1,360,000 available to them for underinsured coverage as a result of their stacking. By a two to one vote, the arbitration panel concluded that the defendant, pursuant to the insurance contract, had to provide the plaintiffs with $340,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, which was the equivalent of the policy's liability coverage. The arbitrators also ruled that stacking did not apply.

Both parties filed applications in the Superior Court, the defendant to correct the panel's decision, and the plaintiffs to vacate that decision. After hearing argument on the matter, the trial court granted the defendant's application to correct. The trial court held that, pursuant to the insurance contract, the total underinsured motorist coverage available to the plaintiffs was $50,000. The plaintiffs now appeal the judgment of the trial court.

On appeal, the plaintiffs contend that New York law requires New York insurance policies to incorporate the minimum underinsured motorist requirements from Connecticut. Therefore, the plaintiffs argue that Connecticut law requires that New York insurance policies provide, at a minimum, underinsured motorist coverage equal to the policies' liability limits. The plaintiffs finally assert that Connecticut law requires insurance policies to provide "stacked coverage" for each of the insured's vehicles. We disagree.

The parties have stipulated, and we conclude, that the law of New York controls the construction of the insurance contract at issue, having been executed in New York. Here, the relevant New York statute pertaining to liability insurance provides: "Every owner's policy of liability insurance ... shall also provide, when a motor vehicle covered by such policy is used or operated in any other state or in any Canadian province, insurance coverage for such motor vehicle at least in the minimum amount required by the laws of that state or province." New York Insurance Law § 5103 (McKinney 1985).

In the present case, the insurance policy issued by the defendant complies with New York law, as reflected in its "Out of State Coverage" provision. That provision provides: "If an auto accident to which this policy applies occurs in any state or province other than the one in which your covered auto is principally garaged, we will interpret your policy for that accident as follows: A. If the state or province has: 1. A financial responsibility or similar law specifying limits of liability for bodily injury or property damage higher than the limit shown in the Declarations, your policy will provide the higher specified limit. 2. A compulsory insurance or similar law requiring a nonresident to maintain insurance whenever the nonresident uses a vehicle in that state or province, your policy will provide at least the required minimum amounts and types of coverage."

Applying New York law to the present case, we find American Transit Ins. Co. v. Abdelghany, 80 N.Y.2d 162, 589 N.Y.S.2d 842, 603 N.E.2d 947 (1992), controlling on the issue of minimum underinsured motorist coverage. In American Transit Ins. Co., the New York Court of Appeals addressed whether a New York insurance policy required that New York insureds be provided minimum uninsured motorist coverage beyond that provided in New York if that vehicle was being operated in a state that imposed greater minimum underinsured motorist requirements on its residents. Id., at 164, 589 N.Y.S.2d 842, 603 N.E.2d 947. The New York Court of Appeals stated: "In sum, we hold that New York law requires insurers to provide the minimum uninsured motorist coverage prescribed by the laws of the state in which the accident occurred. The purpose of Insurance Law Section 5103(e) is to protect New York insureds by assuring that, notwithstanding any New York law to the contrary, the minimum insurance coverage required under the laws of the situs of the accident will apply." Id., at 168-69, 589 N.Y.S.2d 842, 603 N.E.2d 947.

In addition, the New York Court of Appeals in Country-Wide Ins. Co. v. Rodriguez, 55 N.Y.2d 162, 163, 448 N.Y.S.2d 135, 433 N.E.2d 118 (1982), found that the minimum amount of coverage required for an accident is that which is stated in the Vehicle Responsibility Act of that state. In that case, a New York driver driving a New York registered car in North Carolina had an automobile liability policy with a minimum of $10,000 for injuries to one person and $20,000 for all persons injured in a single accident. Id. The North Carolina Financial Responsibility Act required all cars registered in North Carolina to have minimum coverage of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident, and out-of-state drivers have to show proof of at least that amount of coverage within twenty days of an accident or have their license suspended. The New York Court of Appeals in holding that the insurance company had to pay for the higher coverage for an accident that occurred in North Carolina reasoned that New York insurance law required coverage in the amount a North Carolina citizen would need to register a car in North Carolina. Id.

Similarly, in Smith v. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., 181 A.D.2d 342, 343, 585 N.Y.S.2d 899 (1992), the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division held that since Ontario, Canada's Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act had a minimum requirement of $200,000 of uninsured motorist coverage, that the limits...

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3 cases
  • Acosta v. Western Express, Inc.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Superior Court
    • May 23, 2017
    ...and, therefore, does not find those decisions persuasive. Second, it is this court's opinion that the defendant's interpretation of Glens Falls erroneous. The Appellate Court in that case did not, as the defendant contends, hold that out-of-state vehicles were not required to maintain the s......
  • Dobuzinsky v. Middlesex Mut. Assur. Co.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • July 14, 1998
    ...vehicles." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., at 432-33, 627 A.2d 1319; see also Glens Falls Ins. Co. v. Sybalsky, 46 Conn.App. 313, 320-21, 699 A.2d 258, cert. denied, 243 Conn. 929, 701 A.2d 657 In the present case, there was substantial evidence to support the ar......
  • Glens Falls Ins. Co. v. Sybalsky
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • September 30, 1997
    ...Hartford, in opposition. Maria F. Mason and Julia Sybalsky's petition for certification for appeal from the Appellate Court, 46 Conn.App. 313, 699 A.2d 258 (AC 16479), is ...

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