Ark. Court Says Insurers Don’t Have to Pay for Teen’s Wreck

January 13, 2006

An insurance company doesn’t have to defend or pay the claims of a Pulaski County woman whose 15-year-old son wrecked the family car, the Arkansas Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court upheld a judge’s ruling that Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company and Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Arkansas don’t have to defend Sheila Ison or pay benefits for damages caused by the 2003 accident.

After Ison’s 15-year-old son learned in March 2003 that his girlfriend was pregnant, he took an overdose of medication, slashed the tires on the family vehicle, stole some guns and stole his father’s truck, the court ruling said.

The 15-year-old took police on a high-speed chase, drove into the opposite lane of traffic and Interstate 30 and crashed into another car, the ruling said.

The insurers sued the youth’s parents and said the companies had no duty to provide coverage for the accident because the teenager used the car without permission and because the policy did not cover accidents that occur during a criminal act.

Ison argued that the insurers were bound by their contract to provide a legal defense for her son and pay for any damages awarded. She also argued that the youth had previously driven the vehicle alone in the past and that there was no evidence he had been prohibited from driving the car.

In the decision, Chief Judge John Mauzy Pittman wrote that the youth’s previous use of the vehicle “was utterly insufficient to raise an issue of fact as to whether he had implied permission to take it on the date in question.”

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