Court upholds dismissal of 'other driver' case against Enterprise

Steve Korris Sep. 24, 2009, 11:32am


MOUNT VERNON – Enterprise Leasing bears no responsibility for injuries a man suffered while driving a car someone else rented, appeals judges of the Fifth District ruled on Sept. 8.

The Fifth District affirmed Madison County Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn, who dismissed a suit that Markeith Reynolds filed against Enterprise.

Reynolds claimed coverage under a personal accident insurance policy that Glenda Emerson purchased when she rented the car.

Matthew Marlen of Belleville represented Reynolds.

"The plaintiff's complaint does not allege that the defendant expressly or impliedly authorized the plaintiff to operate the rental vehicle," Justice James Donovan wrote.

"The plaintiff has failed to make a convincing argument that the provisions and the exclusions in the rental agreement and the personal accident insurance policy are ambiguous, indefinite, or misleading in any of the ways he suggested," he wrote.

Emerson rented the car in 2005. The first page of the four page rental agreement stated in capital letters, "No other driver permitted."

Emerson elected to purchase personal and collision policies through Gulf Insurance.

The personal accident insurance policy, or "PAI," stated, "Passengers are covered only for accidents occurring while they occupy vehicle."

It stated, "Anyone other than renter occupying or operating vehicle shall be considered a passenger for the purposes of PAI benefits."

It stated that insurance wouldn't be in effect if the renter violated the rental agreement.

"Anyone other than renter occupying or operating vehicle shall be considered a passenger for the purposes of PAI benefits," it stated.

Nineteen days after Emerson rented the car, another vehicle struck it from behind while Reynolds held the wheel.

Reynolds incurred medical expenses and filed a claim, which Enterprise denied.

He sued, alleging bad faith and deceptive practices.

He claimed ambiguity, arguing that while the rental agreement permitted no other driver, the insurance policy covered any accident that occurred with another driver.

Mendelsohn held that Reynolds qualified as a passenger, but denied coverage because Emerson violated the express provision permitting no other driver.

On appeal, the Fifth District held that Mendelsohn committed no error.

"The plaintiff has not established the existence of an ambiguity
in the insurance contract documents that would entitle him to receive benefits under the PAI coverage, and he has not alleged other facts that would bring his claim within or potentially within the PAI coverage," Donovan wrote.

Justices Richard Goldenhersh and Bruce Stewart concurred.

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