Harbor Insurance Co. v. United States Fidelity & Guar. Co.

Decision Date01 November 1972
Docket NumberNo. A-178-71.,A-178-71.
Citation350 F. Supp. 723
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Alaska

Arthur D. Talbot, Anchorage, Alaska, for plaintiff.

George N. Hayes, Delaney, Wiles, Moore, Hayes & Reitman, Inc., Anchorage, Alaska, for defendants.


VON DER HEYDT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on defendants' unopposed motion for summary judgment.

At an auction in August, 1970, a Mr. Clapper (hereinafter Clapper) purchased a tractor and trailer. At the time of the sale these vehicles were registered in the name of Braund, Inc. (hereinafter Braund). On August 8, 1970, Clapper received the endorsed certificates of title to the vehicles, but did not immediately apply for new certificates of title to the vehicles. On September 21, 1970, the vehicles were involved in an accident which resulted in three deaths, several serious personal injuries, and considerable property damage. At the time of the accident, the vehicles were driven by an employee of Clapper.

After the accident, on September 29, 1970, Clapper applied to the Alaska Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles, for new certificates of title to the tractor and trailer. The new certificates of title were issued on October 8, 1970.

On the date of the accident, there was in effect a policy of automobile liability insurance issued by Harbor Insurance Company (hereinafter Harbor) to Braund which expressly listed the tractor and trailer involved in the accident. That policy also contained an omnibus clause by which insurance coverage was provided to a person driving a vehicle owned by Braund with the permission of Braund. On the same date, there was in effect a policy of automobile liability insurance issued by United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company (hereinafter Fidelity) to Clapper. During the subsequent litigation which arose from the accident, Fidelity settled all claims against Clapper and his employee.

Harbor brought this action for a judgment declaring the respective rights and liabilities of the parties to the Harbor policy. Fidelity subsequently moved for summary judgment on the theory that the Harbor policy afforded coverage to Clapper and his employee as a matter of law, and that the Harbor policy was primary.

In determining whether the Harbor policy afforded coverage at the time of the accident, initial inquiry must be directed to the question of whether legal title to the vehicles had passed to Clapper before the accident. A.S. 28.10.370, which regulates the issuance of new registrations and certificates of title, states the clear legislative intent that titles to motor vehicles shall not pass until a new certificate of title has been issued by the appropriate governmental agency:

. . . Until the department issues a new certificate of registration and certificate of ownership, delivery of a vehicle required to be registered under this chapter shall be deemed not to have been made and title shall be deemed not to have passed, and the intended transfer shall be deemed incomplete and not valid or effective for any purpose.

Since the Alaska Supreme Court has not ruled on this question, this court must exercise its best judgment upon the question presented. Kackman v. Continental Ins. Co., 319 F.Supp. 540 (D.Alaska 1970).

Courts that have considered the issue of passage of title under similar motor vehicle registration statutes uniformly require strict compliance with statutory requirements before acknowledging the transfer of title. Brewer v. DeCant, 167 Ohio St. 411, 149 N.E.2d 166 (1958), Ostermiller v. Parker, 152 Mont. 337, 451 P.2d 515 (1968), Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Hayes, 276 N.C. 620, 174 S.E.2d 511 (1970).

One of the policy considerations underlying this view is the...

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  • State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Clark
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Alaska
    • June 26, 1975
    ...contend that the act should be given a very literal interpretation citing this court's opinion in Harbor Insurance Co. v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co., 350 F.Supp. 723 (D.Alaska 1972). There it was held that AS 28.10.370 prevented legal title, meaning ownership, from passing to a b......

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