Biomechanical Engineers—Qualified to Testify?

Gostyla v. Chambers, 176 Conn. App. 506 (2017). The Appellate Court held that biomechanical engineers are qualified to testify about the amount of force generated by a collision and the likely effects of that force on the human body. They are not qualified, however, to provide opinions about whether a collision caused or contributed to a particular individual’s specific injuries because they are not medical doctors. Therefore, the biomechanical engineer was qualified to provide his opinion about the amount of force generated by the car accident and the types of injuries that were generally likely to result from an accident of that magnitude, but was not qualified to give his opinion that the plaintiff’s specific injuries were not caused by the collision because he was not a doctor and had no experience treating and diagnosing injuries.

Timothy J. Holzman, Associate

Cancellation of Policy

21st Century North American Ins. Co. v. Perez, 177 Conn. App. 802, (2017). When the insured defendants failed to make a timely installment payment on their automobile insurance policy, plaintiff insurer sent them a certified notice of cancellation that advised their insurance would cease at a date and time certain and provided an opportunity to avoid cancellation by payment made prior to the deadline. When the full payment amount was not received by the deadline, plaintiff insurer cancelled the insurance policy. The month after the policy was cancelled, the defendant insureds were involved in an automobile accident. The insurer brought a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that the policy had been properly cancelled due to nonpayment and that it had no duty to defend or indemnify. In reversing the trial court’s decision and finding the insurer had validly cancelled the automobile insurance policy, the Connecticut Appellate Court concluded that timely payment of insurance premiums is an essential and material condition to an automobile insurance policy. Furthermore, in reviewing the plaintiff insurer’s cancellation notice and determining it was valid, the court noted that under Connecticut law, an insurer is not obligated to provide an insured who has failed to pay his or her premium with an opportunity to cure that default.

Christina Canales, Associate

Uninsured/Underinsured Insurance Carrier Liability

Latimer v. Aquino, Superior Court, 2017 WL 1430003, 64 Conn. L. Rptr. 190, concluded that the driver of a vehicle who waved the plaintiff on for a left turn was not liable to the plaintiff for doing so. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged liability pursuant to the uninsured/underinsured coverage within her automobile policy because an unidentified motorist signaled that it was safe for the plaintiff to execute her left hand turn, prompting the plaintiff to attempt her left hand turn, and resulting in a collision between the plaintiff and the co-defendant. The crux of the plaintiff’s argument was that the unidentified driver owed the plaintiff a legal duty upon stopping to allow the plaintiff to take her left hand turn, and then breached that duty upon failing to take steps to prevent the plaintiff from entering the road. In granting Nationwide’s motion to strike the count against it, the court concluded that, where there is no allegation “of a special relationship between the plaintiff and the unidentified motorist based on their status as driver and passenger, or that the plaintiff was in the unidentified motorist’s custody or control, which would give rise to a duty on the part of the unidentified driver to aid the plaintiff to ensure that it was safe for her to complete a left-hand turn,” there can be no duty on the part of the waving driver, and so there can be no breach or negligence.

Tiffany L. Sabato, Associate