Berardino v. Hartford Underwriters Insurance Co.
Connecticut General Statutes §38a-336a(c) does not exclude another insurer that furnishes uninsured coverage from being considered a "third party." In 2008, Thomas Berardino and his wife went shopping for a new motor vehicle. An oncoming motor vehicle allegedly traveled into their lane. The other driver lacked insurance. The plaintiffs filed three claims for underinsured-motorist benefits. At the time, the plaintiffs were driving a 2007 Mercedes that Mercedes Benz Financial owned and that Saugatuck Associates IV Inc. leased, subject to an option to purchase. Defendants AIU and AIG Casualty moved for summary judgment. AIG claimed that because Berardino owned stock in Saugatuck, he was an "owner" of the Mercedes. C.G.S. §38a-363(d) defines "owner" of a private motor vehicle as "the person who owns the legal title thereto, except where the motor vehicle is the subject of a security agreement or lease with option to purchase with the debtor or lessee having the right to possession, in which event 'owner' means the debtor or lessee." The court found that the only "owner" under C.G.S. §38a-336(d) was the lessee, Saugatuck. The court denied the motion for summary judgment on the basis that Berardino operated an "owned" motor vehicle and was excluded from coverage, pursuant to C.G.S. §38a-336(d). AIG also argued the $500,000 policy limit of the AIG policy was less than the $1 million policy limit of the plaintiffs' policy with Hartford Underwriters, and that the plaintiffs may not recover from AIG pursuant to C.G.S. §38a-336(d). The court found that because AIG accepted extra premiums for conversion coverage under C.G.S. §38a-336a, it could not claim the benefit of non-stacking in C.G.S. §38a-336(d). Ruling on an apparent issue of first impression, the court found that C.G.S. §38a-336a(c) does not exclude another insurer that furnishes uninsured coverage from being considered a "third party." AIU also denied coverage under the "business pursuits" exclusion, because Berardino testified that 40 to 50 percent of the time he operated the Mercedes to commute to work. AIU failed to prove commuting to work constitutes a business use. The court denied AIU's motion for summary judgment under the "business pursuits" exclusion.