Lancer Insurance Co. v. Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines, Inc.Annotate this Case
Debra Jarvis was driving a bus owned by Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines, Inc. when she experienced a sudden and unforeseeable loss of consciousness. Her loss of consciousness caused the bus to roll over, injuring several passengers. Some of the injured passengers filed separate lawsuits in a Utah court seeking damages. Two of the plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment, asserting that Lancer Insurance Co., Lake Shore’s insurer, was strictly liable for the passengers’ injuries under Utah Code 31A-22-303(1). The motions were denied. Lancer Insurance filed a separate federal case seeking a declaratory judgment confirming the state district court’s interpretation of Utah Code section 31A-22-303(1), thus reinforcing the conclusion that this provision preserves the common-law “sudden incapacity” defense and requires proof of fault to sustain liability. The federal district court certified two questions to the Supreme Court regarding the proper interpretation of section 31A-22-303(1). The Supreme Court answered (1) section 31A-22-303(1) overrules the common-law doctrine of sudden incapacity in a manner imposing strict liability on a driver (and her insurer); and (2) a driver (and her insurer) is subject to liability only up to the amount of the insurance coverage available under an applicable policy.