REYNALDO COLLAZO ET AL. v. JOE HAAS D/B/A HAAS CONSTRUCTION ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. December 16, 2011)
This is an action to recover uninsured motorist benefits following a motor vehicle collision involving the plaintiff and another vehicle. The driver of the defendant vehicle left the scene and has not been identified. The owner of the vehicle was subsequently identified, but denied knowing the identity of the driver and claimed no one had permission to operate the vehicle at the time of the accident.
The named defendants in this action are the owner of the vehicle and John Doe, the unknown driver. Plaintiffs' uninsured motorist insurance carrier, Nationwide Insurance Co., is an unnamed defendant. The defendant owner has liability insurance coverage through State Farm Insurance Co.
The plaintiffs settled all claims against the defendant-owner and State Farm for $90,000, $10,000 less than the uninsured motorist limits with Nationwide. Thereafter, the plaintiffs continued to pursue their claims against Nationwide for uninsured motorist benefits, insisting the settlement with the owner of the vehicle did not bar their claims against the uninsured John Doe driver. Upon motion for summary judgment by Nationwide, the trial court found that because the owner of the vehicle had $100,000 of liability insurance, there was not an "uninsured motor vehicle." Based on this finding, the trial court summarily dismissed the plaintiffs' uninsured motorist claim against Nationwide. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.
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