Excluded drivers cannot escape liability, court rules

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – Machon Lyons is entitled to damages even if the driver of the vehicle in which he was injured was excluded from the liability insurance policy, the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
Lyons was injured when the vehicle left the road and ran into a tree. He sued and won a judgment for $72,500.
The driver was the son of the policy-holder, who specifically excluded him from coverage, and the carrier, Direct General Insurance Co. of Mississippi, denied the payout.
Reversing a 2011 decision by Judge James L. Roberts Jr., the appeals court said in an 8-1 decision that a family member cannot be contractually excluded from liability coverage under the state’s mandatory liability insurance laws.
The court found that state law “requires policy coverage for all permissive drivers.”
The vehicle’s driver had permission to drive his mother’s car.
Named-driver exclusions allow an insured person to specify who is excluded from the liability coverage and generally results in lower premiums. Ideally, the court said, the insured would not allow such a designated person to operate the insured vehicle.
In this case, Judge Eugene Fair wrote for the appeals court that if someone is injured by an excluded driver, “he is still entitled” to the legal minimum coverage.