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Driver found to have right of action under policy issued to brother-in-law In November 1999, a woman sought to buy a 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier. Being a student with inadequate credit, she was unable to purchase the car without the help of her brother-in-law. Although the vehicle was titled in the brother-in-law’s name, the woman paid the monthly notes. The woman sought insurance for the car, informing an employee of the carrier she approached that she owned the vehicle, but it was not titled in her name. The agent filled out an application in the brother-in-law’s name and had the woman sign for him. The only covered driver under the policy was the woman; her brother-in-law was listed as an “excluded person.”

On June 13, 2000, the woman let a friend drive her car, and the friend rear-ended another vehicle. The woman notified her carrier of the accident the next day. The carrier determined that the vehicle was a total loss and appraised its value at $4,225. On June 20, the agent forwarded a letter addressed to the woman’s brother-in-law, at the woman’s address, denying coverage because of a material misrepresentation involving whether the friend driving the car at the time of the accident resided with the woman.

On Aug. 2, the woman sued her insurance company, seeking compensation for property damages, loss of use, rental and inconvenience. She also sought penalties and attorney fees under Louisiana state law, based on the insurer’s failure to properly adjust and pay her claim. On Aug. 21, the carrier filed an answer to the petition, admitting that it had issued a policy in favor of the woman but also asserting the defense of material misrepresentation.

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