Key Decisions

June 2012 – Unlicensed Driver Considered Insured

(filed under: | June 16, 2012)

Other Cases Of Interest

An Unlicensed Driver Was Considered Insured And Entitled To Noneconomic Damages Because She Was Driving With The Owner’s Permission

Landeros v. Torres
(Cal. Ct. of App., 5th Dist.), filed May 24, 2012 

Rocio Landeros was a minor and was not licensed to drive. Nonetheless, she was driving a car owned by her father. While driving, with Marta Perez as a passenger, Landeros and Perez were struck by a vehicle driven by Gustavo Torres. Landeros suffered serious and permanent brain damage.

In the ensuing lawsuit, a jury awarded Landeros a total of $31,656,208 and awarded Perez $77,986.55.

Torres challenged this award. He asserted that Landeros did not have liability insurance and that as a result, under Civil Code, §3333.4, she was barred from recovering $22 million in noneconomic damages awarded to her by the jury.

Although Landeros had never obtained liability insurance, the vehicle Landeros was driving when the collision occurred had been purchased by Miguel Landeros four days before the collision and he had obtained insurance as required by California’s financial responsibility laws and then provided the vehicle to Landeros for her use.

The Court of Appeal affirmed. It found that Landeros was insured because she was using the car with Miguel Landeros’ permission and there was nothing in the policy that required someone be licensed to be deemed insured or that excluded coverage for unlicensed drivers.

The court distinguished cases in which a driver was deemed uninsured because the relevant policy contained an express endorsement identifying the person by name and excluding coverage for that person.