Underinsured Motorist Coverage to Good Samaritan

One week before Christmas, the Texas Supreme Court denied a severely injured “good Samaritan” the benefits of his underinsured motorist (um/uim) coverage. In the decision of United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company v. Goudeau, issued on December 19, 2008, the Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeals and held that Louis Goudeau was not allowed to go to trial in his suit against usf&g.

Mr. Goudeau worked for an automobile dealership in Houston. A driver in front of him had crashed into the retaining wall of the Sam Houston Tollroad. Mr. Goudeau stopped on the right shoulder, got out of the car, and went to help. While doing so, another driver smashed into both cars, hurting Mr. Goudeau badly. The driver who hit them only had minimum limits of $20,000 insurance.

Mr. Goudeau received worker’s compensation, which was provided by usf&g, and brought suit against usf&g because it had also issued the um/uim coverage on the vehicle he was driving. Then, usf&g – which was the defendant in the um/uim case – intervened in the suit claiming it was entitled to be repaid for its worker’s compensation payments. In that capacity, usf&g admitted there was um/uim coverage. The Court of Appeals ruled that there was a fact question about whether Mr. Goudeau was “occupying” the vehicle, and directed that his case should proceed to trial. The Supreme Court, in another ruling favoring insurance companies against the people they insure, reversed. It said that the admission by the worker’s compensation part of usf&g that there was um/uim coverage did not bind the um/uim part of usf&g, and that Mr. Goudeau would not be allowed to try his case to a jury. Accordingly, this good Samaritan had his rights to um/uim coverage denied by the Texas Supreme Court.