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Allstate Insurance Co . v. Melanie Manzo-Pianelli, et al., Case No. 4D13-4320 (4th DCA)

In Manzo-Pianello, the Fourth DCA reversed a summary judgment entered in favor of a plaintiff injured in an automobile accident. In 2007, the plaintiff was involved in an accident with Alana Proctor, the permissive driver of a vehicle owned by Neil Seiden. Seiden had an insurance policy with State Farm that provided $100,000 in coverage, and an umbrella policy with Allstate that provided $1,000,000 in coverage. State Farm tendered its $100,000 policy limits. Allstate denied coverage. The plaintiff then filed suit against her uninsured motorist carrier, who in turn, filed third party claims against Allstate and Proctor, seeking a determination as to the priority of coverage. In 2012, the plaintiff amended her complaint to add a claim against Proctor. Seiden was not named in the lawsuit.

The plaintiff argued that coverage existed under Allstate's umbrella policy pursuant to a provision stating that Allstate would "pay damages which an insured person becomes legally obligated to pay . . . ." Allstate argued that Seiden could not be legally obligated to pay damages since the statute of limitations had run. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The trial court found that Proctor was a permissive driver of the vehicle, and her actions were therefore covered under the policy. The trial court alternatively found that Proctor's actions were covered because any negligence on her part would be imputed to Seiden.

The Fourth DCA reversed, finding that disputed issues of material fact existed regarding whether Seiden is, or can be, legally obligated to pay Proctor's claim. The court noted that the umbrella policy limited coverage to damages which an insured person becomes legally obligated to pay. The Fourth DCA found that the trial court did not determine Seiden's legal obligations, and issues relevant to that determination would include whether the statute of limitations had run, the applicability of the relation back doctrine if Seiden were added as a defendant, whether Allstate misrepresented coverage, and whether tolling applies. Accordingly, the Fourth DCA reversed the summary judgment.

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