Thomas v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co.

Decision Date10 December 1986
Citation398 Mass. 782,500 N.E.2d 810
PartiesJohn S. THOMAS v. HARTFORD ACCIDENT & INDEMNITY COMPANY.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Mitchell J. Wallman, Peabody, for plaintiff.

John P. Ryan, Plymouth Center, for defendant.

Before HENNESSEY, C.J., and LIACOS, ABRAMS, NOLAN and LYNCH, JJ.

LYNCH, Justice.

This case arises out of the defendant's refusal to pay under the plaintiff's own policy for medical expenses incurred by him while operating a motor vehicle owned and insured by his spouse. A judge of the Superior Court reported the case to the Appeals Court in accordance with Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 64, 365 Mass. 831 (1974), and we allowed Thomas's application for direct appellate review.

The following facts were stipulated by the parties. The plaintiff was insured by the defendant, Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company (Hartford), under a Massachusetts motor vehicle insurance policy which provided coverage for the plaintiff's 1973 Plymouth automobile. Thomas was the only operator listed on that policy, and the Plymouth was the only vehicle described on his policy. The policy provided optional medical payments coverage with limits of $5,000 per person, for which Thomas paid an additional premium of $6.00. The vehicle owned by the plaintiff's wife, Lois E. Thomas, was insured by Hartford under a separate Massachusetts motor vehicle insurance policy that also provided optional medical payments coverage with limits of $5,000 per person for an additional $6.00 premium. The policy listed Lois E. Thomas as the only operator of the 1969 Rambler and the Rambler was the only vehicle described on her policy.

Thomas was injured on December 7, 1981, while operating the 1969 Rambler owned by Lois E. Thomas. As a result, Thomas incurred medical expenses in excess of $22,000. Hartford paid Thomas $5,000 pursuant to the medical payments coverage provided under Lois E. Thomas's policy of insurance, but has refused to pay Thomas any medical payments benefits under his own policy.

Thomas's coverage is determined by the terms of his policy. Hartford argues that no medical payments coverage is available to Thomas in this case because of the exclusion contained within Part 6:

"We will not pay for [medical] expenses resulting from injuries to: ...

"5. Anyone injured while occupying or struck by an auto owned or regularly used by you or any household member unless a premium for this Part is shown for that auto on the Coverage Selections page." (Emphasis in original.)

At the time of the accident, Thomas was operating a motor vehicle owned by his spouse, with whom he resides. Therefore, the terms of Thomas's policy preclude recovery "unless a premium for [medical payments] is shown for [Lois E. Thomas's] auto on the Coverage Selections page."

The Thomases' automobiles were insured under two separate insurance contracts with Hartford. Lois E. Thomas's Rambler was not mentioned on the coverage selections page of Thomas's policy for the Plymouth, nor was an additional medical payments premium paid for Lois E. Thomas's Rambler on...

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13 cases
  • Somerset Sav. Bank v. Chicago Title Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • May 19, 1995
    ...of a policy, we construe and enforce unambiguous terms according to their plain meaning. See Thomas v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 398 Mass. 782, 784, 500 N.E.2d 810 (1986); Royal-Globe Ins. Co. v. Schultz, 385 Mass. 1013, 434 N.E.2d 213 (1982). When the provisions of a policy are plain......
  • Central Mut. Ins. Co. v. Boston Telephone, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • May 10, 2007
    ...policy, the Court must construe and enforce unambiguous terms according to their plain meaning. Thomas v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 398 Mass. 782, 784, 500 N.E.2d 810 (1986). Where there is more than one rational interpretation of policy language, however, "the insured is entitled, to......
  • RCI Northeast Services Div. v. Boston Edison Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • June 30, 1987
    ...in this diversity action--favors the construction of terms "according to their ordinary meaning." Thomas v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co., 398 Mass. 782, 784, 500 N.E.2d 810 (1986). Once the switch of inquiry is thrown, the case is made the clearer. It is hornbook law that, If the langu......
  • Allstate Ins. Co. v. Quinn Const. Co., Civ. A. No. 85-2220-WD.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • February 28, 1989
    ...("We read the policy as written. We are not free to revise it or change the order of the words."); Thomas v. Hartford Accident and Indem. Co., 398 Mass. 782, 784, 500 N.E.2d 810 (1986). At the same time, Massachusetts follows the general rule of insurance law that "exclusions from coverage ......
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