A sheriff’s deputy who was run over by his own police vehicle after it was stolen by a Jefferson man on Christmas five years ago is entitled to compensation from his personal car insurance company, Maine’s highest court ruled.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court overturned a lower court decision in ruling that former Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Pease was owed money from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
Pease was injured when Michael Montagna, 45, drove off in Pease’s department-issued Ford Explorer, knocking him to the ground, running over one of his legs and dragging him for about 50 feet. Pease was dispatched to Montagna’s residence after Montagna had called police looking for help, telling dispatchers he thought someone was trying to poison him.
Pease, who suffered severe injuries to his knee, was unable to get coverage from Montagna’s car insurance policy or from the Lincoln County policy, which did not carry uninsured motorist coverage for employees injured on the job.
Pease then sought insurance coverage for his injuries from his personal car insurance policy issued by State Farm, which also denied coverage. A lawsuit he filed against State Farm was later dismissed in Superior Court.
But in a unanimous decision, the supreme court last week overturned the lower court ruling that freed State Farm from liability.
Michael Turndorf, an attorney for Pease, said the lower court had ruled that Pease’s State Farm policy prevented him from recovering damages when struck by a vehicle, namely the unmarked police vehicle, that was furnished to him for regular use.
The supreme court ruled that once the vehicle was stolen, it was no longer furnished for Pease’s regular use so Pease could turn to the uninsured motorist provision in his own policy, he said.
“It was simply a stolen vehicle, and the decision here says there’s coverage under these circumstances,” Turndorf said.
The case will return to the Lincoln County Superior Court trial list.
Attorney Robert Hoy, representing State Farm, said it’s unfair to ask insurance companies to pay for risks that are taken by government employees using government vehicles.
“The government ought to be taking care of injuries sustained as a result of the operation of those vehicles,” he said. “It’s really not fair to distribute that kind of risk to companies who don’t have a premium for it.”
Information from: Kennebec Journal, http://www.kjonline.com/
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