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Speeding Triggers AD&D Criminal Exclusion – D. Utah

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  • Speeding Triggers AD&D Criminal Exclusion – D. Utah

    Here’s a new case out of the District of Utah, Jonathan Oomrigar v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America. This matter involves an AD&D claim where the decedent was observed by police and witnesses as driving recklessly and speeding, weaving in and out of traffic. Unum concluded that the AD&D benefits are not payable under the exclusion of “an attempt to commit or commission of a crime.” Crime is not defined in the plan. The beneficiary plaintiff appealed the decision and brought this present suit arguing that driving too fast for conditions and/or speeding does not constitute a crime under a reasonable interpretation of the plan. Officer Denning, the officer with jurisdiction over the accident, stated that “if anything” the decedent would have been charged with speeding and/or going too fast for the conditions. The plaintiff argues.

    Here, the Plan provides that “any accidental losses caused by, contributed to by, or resulting from . . . an attempt to commit or commission of a crime” will not be covered by the AD&D benefit. The Plan does not define the term “crime.” Unum relied on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to define the term as meaning “an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government; an activity that is against the law; illegal acts in general.” Unum argues that under this definition, speeding and/or going too fast for the conditions, reckless driving, and evading a police officer each constitute a “crime” that disallows the issuance of the AD&D benefit. Plaintiff argues that the only reasonable reading of the Plan is to construe “crime” as referring “to a criminal charge that was classified as a misdemeanor or a felony – one that involves some level of moral turpitude,” and not a minor traffic infraction such as speeding.
    The court disagrees.

    Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the record did not support that Jal engaged in reckless driving or evading a police officer, Unum’s interpretation of the term to encompass speeding and/or going too fast for the conditions is reasonable. Unum’s reliance on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to define the term “crime” is consistent with courts’ methods of discerning the common and ordinary usage of a term. Additionally, Unum’s interpretation is consistent with both other courts’ and secondary authorities’ definitions of crime. Unum’s interpretation is therefore reasonable.

    Unum defined crime, in part, as “an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government.” Driving too fast for the conditions and speeding are both punishable by fine under Utah law. Speeding and/or driving too fast for the conditions therefore reasonably fall under Unum’s reasonable interpretation of the term “crime.”
    The opinion is attached below.
    Attached Files
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