RULINGS OF LAW AND ORDER OF JUDGMENT ON CASE
Kenneth W. Salinger, Justice of the Superior Court
Help Financial, LLC, is listed as a secured lender on a
Massachusetts motor vehicle insurance policy issued by
Commerce Insurance Company to Marcio Rodrigues-Pessoa. First
Help seeks to recover for collision damages to the vehicle
under the policyâs "Secured Lenders" provision.
Commerce asserts that First Helpâs claim is barred by the
policyâs "Vehicle Sharing and Public or Livery
Conveyance Exclusion" because the collision happened
while the vehicle was being used to carry passengers for hire
through the transportation network company called Uber.
Commerce filed suit to obtain declaratory judgment as to
whether First Help may recover under the policy.
Commerce and First Help have submitted the matter as a
"case stated," asking the Court to declare their
legal rights based on agreed facts.
Court may decide this matter even though Rodrigues-Pessoa was
never served with process and the claims against him should
therefore be dismissed. Rodrigues-Pessoa is not a necessary
party because his rights as the named insured are not at
issue; the dispute as presented in the agreed facts only
affects First Helpâs independent rights as a secured lender.
Help is entitled on the agreed facts to recover collision
damages from Commerce. First Help cannot use the doctrine of
issue preclusion to defeat Commerceâs claim because the prior
decision it cites involved a different issue. But, on the
merits, First Helpâs claim under the Secured Lenders
provision is not barred by the Public Conveyance Exclusion,
even though the collision happened while the vehicle owner
was allowing a friend to use his car to drive for Uber.
Judgment will enter declaring First Helpâs right to recover
against Commerce and dismissing the claims against Mr.
Rodrigues-Pessoa without prejudgment.
1. Factual Background.
findings of fact are needed because Commerce and First Help
stipulated to an agreed statement of facts, asked the Court
treat that statement and accompanying documents as the
complete factual record, agreed that the Court may draw
reasonable inferences in applying the law to those facts, and
asked the Court to resolve their dispute on a "case
stated" basis. "Where a statement of agreed
facts contains all the material facts on which the rights of
the parties are to be determined in accordance with law, it
constitutes a âcase stated.â " The Court must accept the
partiesâ agreed statement of facts "as indisputably
true." When parties present a matter as a
case stated "all that remains is for the judge to apply
the correct principles of law and decide the
facts agreed to by Commerce and First Help, which the Court
accepts as true, establish the following.
1.1. The Insurance Policy.
Commerce issued a standard Massachusetts Automobile Insurance
Policy to Mr. Rodrigues-Pessoa for the period December 2,
2016, to December 2, 2017. This Policy, number GKR297,
provided various coverages, including collision damage
coverage with a $ 500 deductible. The vehicle insured under
this policy was a 2015 Ford Fusion. First Help had a security
interest in the vehicle. It was listed as a "Secured
Lender" on the Policyâs coverage selection pages.
collision provision of the Policy provides no-fault coverage.
Commerce agreed to "pay for any direct and accidental
damage" to the insured vehicle, no matter "who is
at fault." The Policy places an upper limit on the
collision damage coverage, stating that Commerce will pay no
more than "the cash value of the auto or the cost to
physically repaid the auto, whichever is less," and that
in all cases Commerce would subtract the $ 500 deductible
from the amount it owed for collision damage.
Policy includes a "Vehicle Sharing and Public or Livery
Conveyance Exclusion" that bars the named insured from
recovering collision damages incurred while the insured
vehicle is being used in connection with a transportation
network company like Uber or Lyft. This provision provides,
in relevant part, that:
[Commerce] will not pay damages or benefits under any
Coverage Part of your policy while your auto is: * * *
Available for use as a public or livery conveyance, including
use of your auto for hire through a ride sharing arrangement,
or a Transportation Network Company (TNC) which operates
under an agreement for compensation. This includes but is not
limited to any period of time a vehicle is being used by you
or any household member who is logged into a TNC as a driver,
whether or not a passenger is occupying the vehicle.
A TNC is defined as an online enabled application or digital
network used to connect passengers with drivers using
vehicles for the purpose of providing prearranged
transportation services for compensation.
Court will refer to this provision as the Public Conveyance
addition, the Policy also includes a "Secured
Lenders" provision that states as follows:
When your Coverage Selections Page shows that a lender has a
secured interest in your auto, [Commerce] will make payments
under Collision, Limited Collision and Comprehensive (Parts
7, 8 and 9) according to the legal interests of each party.
The secured lenders right of repayment will not be
invalidated by your acts or neglect except that we will not
pay if the loss of or damage to your auto is the result of
conversion, embezzlement, or secretion by you or any
household member. Also, we will not pay the secured lender if
the loss of or damage to your auto is the result of arson,
theft or any other means of disposal committed by you or at
When we pay any secured lender we shall, to the extent of our
payment[, ] have the right to exercise any of the secured
lenderâs legal rights of recovery. If you do not file a proof
of loss as provided in this policy, the secured lender must
do so within 30 days after the loss or damage becomes known
to the secured lender.
parties have stipulated that First Help was listed as a
secured lender on the coverage selection pages and also that
First Helpâs interests ...