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Date: 01-06-2023

Case Style:

DeMarkus Bradley v. Viking Insurance Company of Wisconsin

Case Number: 3:20-cv-640

Judge: Tom S. Lee

Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi (Hinds County)

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: James E. Welch, Jr.

Description: Jackson, Mississippi insurance law lawyer represented Plaintiffs, who sued Defendant on beach of contract theories.

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Two significant questions of Mississippi insurance law are posed in
this appeal of a denial of coverage for an automobile accident. One is whetheruninsured motorist coverage can be denied simply because the driver, who
was the son of the insured, was not listed on the policy? We answer that
question “no.” The other is whether the policy can be voided because the
insured committed a material misrepresentation by failing in her application
for insurance to name, as required, those of driving age who lived in her
household? We answer that question “yes” and AFFIRM.


In March 2016, Angela Hawkins, DeMarkus Bradley’s mother,
applied for an automobile insurance policy with Viking Insurance. The
application required that certain other potential drivers be named:
I understand that I must report to the Company all persons of
legal driving age or older who live with me temporarily or
permanently, including all children at college. I understand
that I must report all persons who are regular operators of any
vehicle to be insured, regardless of where they reside.
The policy relevantly defined “regular operator” as a person old enough to
drive who resides in the insured’s home.

The application emphasized the importance of accuracy. One place it
did so was to declare that Viking relied on the answers:

We [Viking] rely upon you to provide us with accurate
information. This policy, your application (which is made a
part of this policy as if attached), and your Declarations Page
include all the agreements between you and us relating to this
insurance. If you have made any misrepresentations in your
application or when subsequently asked, this policy may not
provide any coverage.

Further, the policy defined “misrepresentation” relatively broadly as
providing information to us that is known by you to be false,
misleading or fraudulent. This could be presented to us during
the application for coverage, or during the policy period. It
must affect either the eligibility for coverage and/or the
premium that is charged. Concealing information relevant to
the application, or maintenance of coverage, is also

Finally, the policy stipulated that “[i]f you misrepresent any fact or condition
that affects whether a risk is eligible or contributes to a loss, we reserve the
right to rescind the policy and/or deny coverage.”

At the time of Hawkins’ March 2016 insurance application, Bradley
lived with Hawkins, was a resident of her household, and was of legal driving

2 Thus, Bradley was a regular operator of the Hawkins vehicles.
Hawkins, though, failed to disclose Bradley on her insurance application as a
regular operator. For policy renewals between March 2016 and the accident
in April 2018, Hawkins never added Bradley to her policy.
In April 2018, Bradley was operating Hawkins’ vehicle when he was
struck by an uninsured motorist. After the accident, Bradley submitted a
claim for uninsured motorist (UM) insurance. Hawkins’ policy contained
UM coverage3 and stated that Viking

will pay damages for bodily injury which an insured person is
legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an
uninsured motor vehicle. The bodily injury must be caused by
a car accident and result from the ownership, upkeep or use of
an uninsured motor vehicle.

2 There is record evidence that DeMarkus Bradley was born in about 1994, and so
would have been around 22 years old in 2016.

3 Hawkins rejected UM coverage for her initial Viking policy, issued in 2016. By
the time of her 2018 renewal, which is the operative policy for the accident underlying this
litigation, she had UM insurance.

An “insured person” under the Policy includes “a relative” of the
named insured and “any other person occupying [the] insured car with the
permission of” the named insured. Bradley therefore qualified as an insured
person. However, the policy stated that UM coverage was unavailable when
an unlisted regular driver is operating the vehicle:
This [UM] coverage does not apply to bodily injury sustained
by an insured person described by any of the following.
. . .

(8) While your insured car is being operated by a regular
operator who was not reported to us. The regular operator
must be reported on the original application for insurance or
otherwise disclosed to us and listed on your Declarations Page
before the car accident.

Viking denied Bradley’s claim because it found that Bradley was a
regular operator of Hawkins’ vehicle but had not been disclosed. Hawkins
admitted that Bradley was a driver living in her household who had not been
disclosed. Viking subsequently force-placed Bradley on the policy.
In October 2020, Bradley and Hawkins sued Viking, seeking damages
for a wrongful denial of benefits. Bradley and Hawkins asserted that
excluding drivers not listed on the policy violated Mississippi’s statutorily
prescribed UM coverage requirements.

After discovery, both parties moved for summary judgment. The
district court concluded that Viking’s unnamed driver exclusion was without
effect. Bradley v. Viking Ins. Co. of Wis., 570 F. Supp. 3d 389, 394 (S.D. Miss.
2021). Bradley, “as a resident member of Hawkins’ household and as a
person operating the vehicle with her permission, was an ‘insured’ for UM
purposes and was not excluded from coverage by” the policy’s unnamed
driver exclusion. Id.

Nonetheless, the district court denied coverage because Hawkins had
failed to disclose in her initial application or in any renewal that Bradley was
a regular operator of the insured vehicle. Id. at 399. Those failures
constituted misrepresentations. Id. at 396. Under the policy, Viking could
deny coverage if the insured “misrepresent[s] any fact or condition that
affects whether a risk is eligible or contributes to a loss” and defined
“misrepresentation” as information that is “known by you to be false . . .
[and] affect[s] either the eligibility for coverage and/or the premium that is
charged.” Id. at 397 (quotation marks omitted). Hawkins’
misrepresentation, the court found, affected the premium charged, and
Viking therefore had the right to deny Bradley’s UM claim. Id. The court
granted Viking’s motion for summary judgment. Id. Both parties appealed.

Outcome: Affirmed on appeal.

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