On June 19, 1965, a company truck belonging to a fleet of company vehicles was involved in a serious accident resulting in injuries and lawsuits to recover damages. However, when the Bronx owner of the fleet applied in a timely manner to their insurance company for litigation support and the benefits owed under the policy, they were informed that the particular vehicle in question was not covered under the policy.
A review of the policy showed that although the company owned five vehicles, three of the five that were listed on the policy had different engine numbers than the vehicle insurance policy. In fact, the three vehicles that were listed on the policy were not owned nor had they ever been owned by the company. The company filed a lawsuit against the Queens insurance company claiming a mutual error in the policy and demand for benefits.
The insurance company contended that since the vehicle that was in the truck accident was not listed on the policy that it would not be covered. The court maintained that there have been numerous other cases that have been examined in situation like this. It is more important that the written word of the contract reflects the verbal agreement between the parties than the other way around. Since the intent of both parties was to insure the fleet of vehicles owned by that company, the insurance company needs to make the adjustments to the policy to demonstrate that fact. That means that the vehicles that are listed on the policy, but that are not owned by the company need to be removed. It also means that the vehicles that are owned by the company and not listed on the policy need to be added. In all of the precedent cases reviewed this correction to comply with the verbal agreement between the parties was upheld.
The Supreme Court ruled that since the intent was to cover the vehicles owned by the company and that there is no doubt that this vehicle was owned by the company at the time of the accident, it should be covered. They point out that if one of the vehicles that was listed on the policy, but not owned by the company in question had been involved in an accident that their belief is that the insurance company would have failed to insure it because its agreement was with the company to insure its fleet and the vehicle was not part of the fleet.
It is so ordered by the Justices that the insurance company is held liable to represent the company as the insurer of the vehicle.
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