Grippin v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Coverage-Resident Relative.

Plaintiff, Grippin, was struck by a truck while driving his motorcycle, causing serious bodily injury to Grippin. At the time of the accident, Grippin and his wife owned a home in Colorado Springs, where they lived with their children. However, Grippin (and his wife and children) also regularly lived with his grandparents at their house in Fort Morgan for approximately one week per month to help care for them. Grippin and his wife had their own room in the Fort Morgan house and kept personal belongings there. Grippin was listed as an “other household driver” on his grandparents’ automobile insurance renewal forms from State Farm.

For his damages, the at-fault driver’s insurer paid its policy limits, and Grippin also received the policy limits from his own underinsured motorist policy. Since Colorado law provides that a plaintiff can obtain underinsured motorist coverage from a policy in a household in which the plaintiff is a “resident relative,” Grippin then pursued a claim under his grandparent’s policy with State Farm Insurance.

State Farm denied coverage on the basis that Grippin was not a “resident relative” of his grandparents’ home because he did not reside “primarily at their home in Fort Morgan,” so Grippin filed a lawsuit against State Farm. State Farm moved for summary judgment, to have the case decided on the basis that Grippin was not a resident relative of his grandparents’ household according to its policy, and the District Court agreed with State Farm. Grippin appealed the District Court’s order, claiming that State Farm’s definition of “resident relative” violates public policy because it provides coverage to a narrower class of persons than the UM/UIM statute, and is therefore void and unenforceable.

Colorado’s automobile insurance statue defines an “insured” as “the named insured, relatives of the named insured who reside in the same household as the named insured, and any person using the described motor vehicle with permission of the named insured.” The statue further defines a “resident relative” as a person who, at the time of the accident, is related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the named insured or resident spouse and who resides in the named insured’s household, even if temporarily living elsewhere….”

Grippin contended that State Farm’s definition of “resident relative” to a single, “primary” residence was incorrect as a person can have more than one residence, the Court of Appeals agreed. “Resident relative” is statutorily defined to include a broader class of relatives “who reside in the named insured’s household.” The Court stated that State Farm’s definition of “resident relative” narrowed the statutorily defined class of insureds because relatives who “reside” with the named insured but do not reside “primarily” with the named insured are included under the statute, but not included under State Farm’s policy.

The Court concluded that State Farm’s definition of “resident relative” improperly limits statutorily mandated coverage, reversed the district court’s decision, and returned the case to the district court for further proceedings on Grippin’s claims.

This summary is not intended as legal advice. The facts of every case are different, so it’s important that you contact an attorney about the specific facts of your case. The attorneys at Mintz Law Firm are experienced in representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence of another, contact Mintz Law Firm at 303-462-2999, or online at www.4injury.net.