In its earlier opinion, the Court of Appeals held that Lawrence E. Metz’s 2003 Chevrolet Avalanche was in fact covered by the Safeway Insurance Company during an accident that happened in Bossier City, Louisiana. The Court of Appeals looked to the language of the policy that stated “when two or more automobiles are insured hereunder, the terms of the policy shall apply separately to each” to conclude that the paying of premiums applied separately to each of Metz’s vehicles.
Although Metz had not paid the additional premium on his second vehicle, he had paid for coverage on his Avalanche in full prior to the accident. Therefore, the Court of Appeals initially held that Safeway was still responsible for the damages Metz incurred in the accident, although they had canceled the policy prior. It seems, however, that the Court of Appeals overlooked some relevant language within Safeway’s Insurance Policy, which led them to grant a rehearing for the case. The Court of Appeals ultimately reversed their initial holding in favor of Safeway Insurance Company.
In the rehearing, the Court looked carefully at what exactly “when two or more automobiles are insured hereunder (emphasis added), the terms of the policy shall apply separately to each” referred to. That statement was under the following heading: “4. Two or More Automobiles—Parts I, III, and IV.” Parts I, III, and IV of the insurance policy were about “Liability, Expenses for Medical Services, and Physical Damage” respectively. Parts I, III, and IV of Safeway’s insurance policy had nothing to do with the payment of premiums.
On rehearing, this court decided that Safeway’s terms applied separately to each vehicle only with regards to “liability, expenses for medical services, and physical damage” and not with regards to the payment of premiums. Therefore, since Metz did not pay the premium on his additional vehicle, his entire policy had been effectively canceled two days prior to his accident, leaving him with no coverage.
Interpreting language is a complex matter that even courts get wrong. That is why it is crucial to get representation from lawyers who are skilled at language interpretation and application, and who will get it right the first time around.
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