Shaffer v. Mindell
A defendant tortfeasor who alleges that a phantom driver caused the subject injury can file an apportionment complaint against the plaintiff's motor vehicle insurance carrier. The plaintiff's complaint alleged that the defendant, Constance Mindell, was on a bike ride in Israel and lost control of her bicycle, swerved, and collided with the plaintiff, who was also on a bicycle. Constance Mindell claimed that an unknown, phantom motor vehicle driver forced Mindell off the road and then fled the scene. Mindell filed an apportionment complaint for uninsured-motorist benefits against the plaintiff bicyclist's insurance company, State Farm Insurance Co. Mindell argued that the plaintiff's uninsured-motorist insurance company may stand in the shoes of the unidentified, phantom tortfeasor. State Farm Insurance Co. moved to strike and argued that there is no apportionment permitted against unidentified tortfeasors. In Eskin v. Castiglia, a 2000 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that an apportionment complaint cannot be filed against an unidentified individual. If the defendant cites in the plaintiff bicyclist's uninsured-motorist carrier, as a surrogate for an unidentified driver, the uninsured-motorist carrier is not exposed to any real legal responsibility, unless the plaintiff pleads over. The court rejected State Farm's argument that it lacks privity of contract with Constance Mindell and cannot be forced to stand in the shoes of the unknown, phantom tortfeasor. Privity is not required for apportionment. The court denied State Farm's motion to strike.