Uninsured Motorist Benefits Awarded Minor Under Mom’s Fiancee’s Policy

An Illinois Uninsured Motorist policy has been interpretted by the Appellate Court as providing coverage to a child living with his mother and her fiancee under the fiancee’s insurance policy in an opinion released July 25, 2008. Clayton v. Millers First Insurance Co., 2008 WL 2926874 (5-07-0061). The minor plaintiff was injured in a one car accident where the driver was uninsured and sought uninsured motorist benefits under his mother’s fiancee’s insurance policy. The insurance company denied coverage and a declaratory judgment action followed where the trial court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment holding that the child did not qualify as a “family member” under the fiancee’s policy. An appeal followed.

In the appeal the pertinent question was whether the minor plaintiff qualifies as a “family member” under the fiancee’s policy. The policy defined “family member” as follows: “….a person related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption who is a resident of your household. This includes a ward or foster child.” The plaintiff contended that the definition was ambiguous and that the term “ward” has several meanings.

The Clayton court discussed whether the term “ward” necessarily required court adjudication. The mother’s fiancee was never appointed as a guardian, the minor merly lived with him along with his mother. Citing Parks v. Kownacki, 305 Ill. App. 3d 449, 711 N.E. 2d 1208 (1999), rev’d on other ground, 193 Ill. 2d 164, 737 N.E. 2d 287 (2000), the Appellate Court held: “that the term ward could be used to describe a person despite no prior adjudication of that status.” Clayton, supra. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s granting of a summary judgment and held as a matter of law that the minor was entitled to uninsurance motorist benefits under his mother’s fiancee’s insurance policy. Read those policies carefully there may be more there than you think!

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