After being on the receiving end of a golf club in an episode of road rage that erupted in a McDonald’s parking lot, two Colorado men wondered whether their injuries would be covered by the Allstate policy on their car.
Last week, the Colorado Court of Appeals decided that the men were out of luck.
The insurance claim filed by Chanson Roque and Shannon Isenhour arose when the two men, in Isenhour’s car, exchanged angry words with Richard Terlingen, who was driving alongside in his car. Isenhour turned into the parking lot of a Denver-area McDonald’s, but Terlingen wasn’t finished.
When Isenhour parked his car, Terlingen pulled up behind. Blocked in, Isenhour and Roque emerged from their car and were confronted immediately by Terlingen. The argument escalated from there, and Terlingen pulled a golf club from the trunk of his car. Terlingen used the golf club to administer a severe beating to Isenhour and Roque.
The two injured men subsequently sued Terlingen for their injuries.
Terlingen held home, umbrella, and automobile insurance policies with American Family Mutual Insurance Company. American Family obtained a declaratory judgment in federal court that it was not required to cover Terlingen. With regard to Terlingen’s auto policy, the federal court decided that it only covered Terlingen for third-party claims “due to the use of a car,” and that the road rage injuries suffered by Isenhour and Roque did not result from such use.
The federal court judgment rendered Terlingen an uninsured motorist, so Isenhour and Roque sought UM coverage under an Allstate policy on Isenhour’s vehicle. They sued in state court when Allstate denied coverage.
The trial court agreed with Allstate’s contention that the plaintiffs’ injuries did not arise from the use of an automobile.
Last week, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment in favor of Allstate issued by the trial court.
Isenhour and Roque did win one point before the state appeals court. Allstate argued as a threshold issue that, because the declaratory judgment in federal court determined that plaintiffs’ injuries had not resulted from Terlingen’s use of his vehicle, issue preclusion barred their claim against Allstate.
In rejecting Allstate’s argument, the state appeals court explained that “the issue litigated in federal court was not identical to the issue before us. This case involves a policy providing first-party coverage mandated by Colorado’s UM statute. The federal court addressed a different insurer’s policy providing third-party coverage. Such coverage does not fall under the UM statute.”
Unfortunately, Isenhour and Roque were doomed to lose on the substantive issue of whether their road rage injuries were covered by the Allstate policy.
“We conclude that exiting the car and then engaging in intentional misconduct breaks the requisite causal chain between use of the vehicle and the injuries,” the court said. (Roque v. Allstate)
The court concluded on this note:
Colorado’s uninsured motorist statute is intended only to “compensate a person injured by an uninsured motorist to the same extent as one injured by a motorist who is insured in compliance with the law,” not to “require full indemnification of losses suffered at the hands of uninsured motorists under all circumstances.”
– Pat Murphy