Gaulin v. Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Co.
An insurance broker may not owe a duty to an individual who is not a client or a named insured. Allegedly, Joseph Parks negligently collided with the plaintiff, Paul Gaulin, who was driving his girlfriend's motor vehicle. Gaulin sued Parks, and they settled for the policy limit of Parks' insurance policy. Gaulin sued Travelers and the defendant insurance broker, alleging that the broker was negligent, because it failed to include Gaulin as an insured on his girlfriend's motor-vehicle policy with Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Co. Gaulin claimed that the broker should have advised his girlfriend to include Gaulin as a named insured on her insurance policy, because they resided together and shared living expenses. The court granted Travelers' motion for summary judgment, because Gaulin was not included as an insured on his girlfriend's motor-vehicle policy, and he did not qualify as a family member of the insured. Gaulin's right to receive underinsured-motorist benefits was contingent on his being included as an insured. Also, at the time of the motor-vehicle accident on April 13, 2007, his girlfriend's motor vehicle was not included as a "covered auto." To prevail on a negligence claim against an insurance agent, a plaintiff must prove: 1.) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty; 2.) the duty was breached; and 3.) the breach proximately caused the plaintiff's damages. The court found that the insurance broker did not owe Gaulin a duty. An insurance agent is considered the agent of the insured, for purposes of negotiating an insurance policy with an insurance company. Although Gaulin's injuries were foreseeable, because the insurance broker knew that he and his girlfriend lived together, and that Gaulin could drive his girlfriend's car, Gaulin's injuries were caused by the tortfeasor, Joseph Parks, as opposed to the insurance broker's advice to his girlfriend. "The attenuation between [the insurance broker's] conduct and the plaintiff's economic harm," wrote the court, "is too remote, as a matter of public policy, to impose a duty." If the insurance broker owed anyone a duty, it was Gaulin's girlfriend. The court granted the insurance broker's motion for summary judgment.