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Article Title

Insurance

Publication Date

12-1997

Document Type

Survey Article

Abstract

The volume of cases that reached the appellate courts of Georgia during this survey period was greater than last year. The courts decided slightly over fifty cases this year that dealt with insurance issues. Most of these cases originated from the trial courts on declaratory judgment actions. Indeed, over twenty of the cases reviewed in this Article are declaratory judgment actions. The current trend seems to be for the insurer to file a declaratory judgment action to determine coverage issues while attempting to stay the case on the merits that gave rise to those issues. The reason for this is perfectly understandable.

Two cases decided during the survey period illustrate the danger of an insurer not seeking a declaration of its obligations under the terms of the policy. The first of these, Adams v. Atlanta Casualty Co. related to a driver exclusion endorsement. The Adams' son was the excluded driver under the policy issued to his parents. He had an automobile collision, and after suit was filed arising from the collision, the Adamses claimed coverage under the Atlanta Casualty policy. Thereafter, Atlanta Casualty, by letter, informed the Adamses that an investigation showed their son was operating the vehicle, and because he was an excluded driver under the policy, "there [was] no coverage afforded by [the] policy for this loss." Atlanta Casualty then fied a petition for declaratory judgment, but the underlying action was not stayed and resulted in a verdict in favor of plaintiff. Almost a year after the judgment was entered, Atlanta Casualty moved for summary judgment in the declaratory judgment action. In the motion, Atlanta Casualty contended that no coverage and no duty to defend existed because of the named driver exclusion. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment without explanation.

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