ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District affirmed a summary judgment made by a trial court in favor of Enterprise Leasing Co. of St. Louis and its subsidiary ELCO Administrative Services Co. in a case in which a motorist attempted to have the companies assume liability in an accident he allegedly caused.
The appellant, Carlus Parker, had lost the judgment on July 14, 2016, and was ordered to pay $575,000 in damages and post-judgment interest to Darion Clayborne, who was allegedly injured. Parker appealed the decision and attempted to reverse it by claiming Enterprise was duty-bound to come to his defense since the accident involved one of its rentals, and Parker had entered in a contract.
While driving an SUV rental from Enterprise on March 11, 2013, Parker collided with Clayborne after he allegedly sped through a stop sign, according to court documents. Parker, who had not purchased any insurance coverage or liability protection for his rental, had to turn to his own auto insurer, Benchmark Insurance Co., for liability protection. The involvement of Benchmark led to a settlement agreement between the insurer, Parker and Clayborne.
Benchmark paid $15,000 to Clayborne under the conditions he would not pursue any personal assets or file garnishments or judgments against properties outside of Parker’s insurance policies. Moreover, Parker waved defense from Enterprise and ELCO and the ability to change venues if the case went to trial.
On July 2, 2014, however, Clayborne claimed he had sustained injuries from the accident. The case went to trial Oct. 6, 2014, when Clayborne was awarded the $575,000. Clayborne then filed garnishments against Parker, Enterprise and ELCO for $25,000, the minimum amount allowable by Missouri’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL).
Parker responded by filing a cross-claim against Enterprise and ELCO, stating the companies were culpable of bad faith failure and were contractually obligated to settle the claim with Clayborne before he had entered his claim for his injuries.
Enterprise and ELCO tendered the $25,000 to Clayborne, who dismissed them from the garnishment. The companies then opted to let a court resolve Parker’s claims against them and filed for a summary judgment on Nov. 12, 2015. The trial court ruled in their favor, finding that neither Enterprise nor ELCO are insurers, that Parker had not paid any premiums to the companies and the companies were not obligated to settle with Clayborne based on the terms of their rental agreement and the MVFRL.
The Court of Appeals came to the same conclusion in their affirmation. The court stated Enterprise and ELCO Administrative had satisfied their obligations to Parker. The court agreed that because both Enterprise and ELCO are car rental companies and not insurers, they were not liable to assume Parker’s defense based on the nature of their business, under the rental agreement he signed and the state laws.