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Monday, March 22, 2021

New Auto Case: Out-of-state Automotive Insurance Policy Construed on Appeal: Summary Judgment for Insuror Reversed and Summary Judgment for Insured to Be Granted on Remand

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just released its opinion in Progressive Specialty Insurance Company v. Kim, No. M2019-01998-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 22, 2021).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

After being injured in a car accident, a man filed a negligence lawsuit against several defendants, including the driver of the vehicle and the company that employed the driver. The insurance company that provided insurance coverage to the company in Alabama filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination of whether the policy provided liability coverage for the company in the underlying tort action. After the insurance company and the plaintiff in the underlying tort action filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted summary judgment to the insurance company based on respondeat superior principles. We conclude that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the insurance company because, under Alabama law, the policy provided liability coverage for the company at the time the accident occurred.

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: This is an excellent opinion on the doctrine of lex loci contractus (while it does not mention the doctrine specifically, the doctrine is discussed extensively in Nelson v. Nelson, 409 S.W.3d 629 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2013), which is cited on page 4 of this slip opinion). In cases like this one, as a matter of contract, the law of the state where the contract was made controls, i.e., the "lex loci contractus."  Since people are becoming increasingly mobile, and because Tennessee has eight border states, this opinion is a must-read for any lawyer who handles auto tort cases in Tennessee because it explains very well how out-of-state automotive insurance polices are to be interpreted under this doctrine in a Tennessee civil action.    

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