NY Justice Courts-Part 3
Civil Rights Round Up

"Platonic" Roommates Out of Luck

In an interesting case handed down last week,  Matter of Erie Ins. Co. v. Williams, 2006 NY Slip Op 06716, the Fourth Department considered the issue of whether the cancellation of an automobile insurance policy as to one insured, Tiffany Luterak,operated to effectively cancel the insurance as to the other insured, Bill Williams. 

Apparently Bill and Tiffany shared the costs of maintaining and insuring their cars.  Erie Insurance  canceled Tiffany's automobile insurance policy and thereafter Bill was involved in an accident with that vehicle.  He then commenced a supplementary uninsured motorist claim against Erie and Erie then sought to stay the arbitration on the grounds that no insurance was in effect at the time of the accident since Bill was "a member of (Tiffany's) household" at the time of the cancellation.

The Fourth Department concluded that Bill and Tiffany did in fact reside together, but as "platonic roommates":

We conclude, instead, that respondent on the date of cancellation "actually resided in the insured['s] household with some degree of permanence and with the intention to remain for an indefinite period of time" (Matter of Biundo v New York Cent. Mut., 14 AD3d 559, 560). The record establishes that, although respondent and Luterek were platonic roommates, they were living as members of a single household and indeed were sharing the costs of maintaining their vehicles and the insurance thereon. We thus conclude that the policy was not in effect at the time of the accident. Under the circumstances, petitioner had no obligation to disclaim liability or to deny coverage (see generally Insurance Law § 3420 [d]; Matter of Worcester Ins. Co. v Bettenhauser, 95 NY2d 185, 188-190; Zappone v Home Ins. Co., 55 NY2d 131, 137-138).

The holding makes perfect sense to me.  It's the alleged facts that I have a problem with.  I smell a rat. 

I'm thinking Bill and Tiffany pulled the wool over the Court's eyes.  It sounds as if Bill and Tiffany, "platonic" roommates, each owned a car, so why didn't they each pay for and insure their own car?  Why bother combining costs, unless one person was paying more than their fair share?  And why would a "platonic" friend do that?  I've had a number of good friends in my life, but none of them ever paid for my car insurance.   Must be I've got the wrong kind of friends.

But, I digress.  Platonic relationship or not, it wouldn't have changed the holding.  Nevertheless, Bill and Tiffany--you're not fooling me.

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