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Curtis v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
591 F.2d 572 (1979)


Facts

The Ahrens family had three daughters. The two older daughters, Beth and Shawnna, regularly drove the Ahrens’s cars with their parents’ permission. The Ahrens’s youngest daughter, Deborah, was unlicensed. Deborah borrowed the Ahrens’s Volkswagen without her parents’ knowledge to drive her friends Helen Curtis, Brian Tottenhoff, and Joseph Wallace to shoot fireworks. Before she took the Volkswagen, Deborah told Shawnna that she would be taking the Volkswagen. Shawnna made no comment about Deborah’s disclosure. Later, when Deborah was driving Curtis in the Volkswagen, Deborah ran into Beth. Beth, Curtis, and Deborah did not discuss Deborah’s use of the Volkswagen. Deborah told neither Shawnna nor Beth that she would be driving Wallace or Tottenhoff in the Volkswagen. After they were finished shooting off fireworks, Deborah starting driving Curtis, Wallace, and Tottenhoff home. Wallace, who was also unlicensed, asked to drive the Volkswagen. Deborah consented. While driving, Wallace got into an accident, injuring Curtis. Curtis’s father, Mr. Curtis (plaintiff) incurred $15,000 in medical expenses for Curtis’s treatment. Mr. Curtis made a claim against the Ahrens’s insurance company. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) (defendant), the Ahrens’ insurer, disclaimed the claim. Mr. Curtis sued State Farm seeking a determination that State Farm was required to defend and indemnify Wallace under State Farm’s policy with the Ahrens. The trial court instructed the jury that the Ahrens, not the Ahrens’s daughters, were the named insureds and that the Ahrens had not permitted Wallace to drive the Volkswagen. The jury delivered a verdict declaring that the Ahrens’s State Farm policy covered Wallace as the driver of the Ahrens’ car. State Farm appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Holloway, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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