(WKBN) – If you borrow someone’s car and get into a crash who pays? Would it be the insurance company the owner of the car has or the driver who borrowed the car? Well, it’s complicated and comes down to the policy language, according to a recent ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court.
The panel took up a 2020 case out of Streetsboro where a teen borrowed his friend’s car and crashed it into a utility pole with three passengers inside. The city wanted paid for the utility pole, and the passengers filed personal injury claims.
The driver’s insurer Acuity battled with the car owner’s insurer Progressive on who would pay the claims. A trial court ruled that Acuity should pay the damages. Acuity appealed to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s decision and said both companies should share the cost of covering the accident.
Progressive appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Acuity must pay for the accident because the driver was covered under his father’s policy which provided coverage when his son was driving a vehicle with permission from the owner.
The court found that under the Progressive policy, the driver is not an insured person because that definition applies to a permissive user who is not insured by another policy, and the driver was insured under another policy.
The Supreme Court’s decision was not unanimous. It was a 5-2 decision. Justice Michael P. Donnelly and Justice Brunner disagreed. They said that a close reading of the Acuity policy does not plainly establish that Smith was insured while driving a borrowed automobile. Brunner wrote that the Eleventh District applied Supreme Court precedent and correctly determined that Progressive should have covered the damages.