Mercury Casualty v. ChuAnnotate this Case
Mercury Casualty Company filed an action seeking declaratory relief regarding its obligation to students Hung Chu and his roommate Tu Pham. Mercury issued an automobile policy to Chu insuring his 1995 Honda Accord. Chu was driving, and Pham was a passenger, when Chu collided with a vehicle driven by Krystal Nguyen Hoang. Pham filed a personal injury action against Chu and Hoang and obtained a $333,300 judgment against Chu. Mercury sought a judicial determination confirming Mercury’s decision Chu’s policy excluded coverage for Pham’s judgment under a “resident exclusion.” Mercury also sought an order requiring Chu to reimburse Mercury the fees and costs it incurred in defending him against Pham’s lawsuit. Chu cross-complained against Mercury for breach of contract, bad faith, and general negligence. Mercury prevailed on the issue of whether the policy provided coverage for Pham’s judgment. The court determined Mercury had no duty to indemnify Chu with respect to the judgment. It granted Mercury’s motion for judgment on the pleadings (JOP) on Chu’s cross-complaint but determined Mercury could not seek reimbursement of its attorney fees and costs in defending Chu because such damages were not sought in the JOP. Both parties appealed. Chu and Pham appealed the determination that Mercury’s policy excluded coverage for Pham’s personal injury lawsuit against Chu. Mercury appealed the court’s ruling Chu was not required to reimburse Mercury for the defense fees and costs. After its review of the record, the Court of Appeal reversed, concluding the policy provision excluding Pham from coverage was an overbroad expansion of the statutorily permitted exclusion and was also contrary to public policy. Based on this ruling, the Court did not address the issue raised in Mercury’s cross-appeal regarding its entitlement to defense costs and fees.