CARLOS GARCIA v. CITY OF BRIDGEPORT, SC 18460
Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage; Whether Self-Insured Municipality Elected to Provide Statutory Minimum Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage; Whether Self-Insured Municipality’s Liability for Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage is Unlimited Where it Fails to Make an Affirmative Election to Limit its Coverage. The city of Bridgeport (city) is a self-insured municipality. On February 2, 2004, Carlos Garcia, a city employee, was injured in a two-vehicle accident. The accident occurred during the course of Garcia's employment and while he was driving a vehicle owned by the city. After recovering a total of $50,000 under the tortfeasor's insurance policy as well as his own policy, Garcia commenced this action seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the scope of the city’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Garcia claimed that the city’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage was unlimited at the time of the accident because the city had not filed, as required by General Statutes § 38a-336 (a), an application with the insurance commissioner electing to limit the amount of its coverage. The city, however, maintained that, since 1982, it had limited its uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to the statutory minimum of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per occurrence. In support of its position, the city submitted a copy of its “Application for Self-Insurance Permit,” dated August 12, 1982. The application stated that the city was maintaining uninsured/underinsured coverage in the amount of $20,000/$40,000. The city also provided documentation that the insurance commissioner, on August 19, 1982, approved its application. Based on these documents, the trial court rendered a judgment declaring that the city had maintained uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in the amount of $20,000/$40,000 since 1982. On appeal, Garcia maintains that the procedure for applying for self-insurer status pursuant to General Statutes § 14-129 and the procedure to limit uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage pursuant to General Statutes § 38a-336 (a) are separate and distinct. Garcia claims that the city, at the time of the accident, had not affirmatively elected to limit its uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage by utilizing the procedure provided in § 38a-336 (a). He further contends that the only purpose for requiring an applicant to file an “Application for Self-Insurance Permit” was to determine whether the applicant had the financial ability to act as a self-insurer and that the application was not intended to be, and was not, an affirmative election of the minimum limits of coverage. If he prevails on his claim that the city had not limited its uninsured/underinsured coverage to $20,000/$40,000, Garcia next claims that, because the liability coverage provided by a self-insurer is unlimited, it necessarily follows that the city's uninsured/underinsured coverage is also unlimited in the absence of an affirmative election pursuant to § 38a-336 (a). Garcia's position is that if the city had not in fact affirmatively elected to limit its coverage as of the date of his accident, its uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage was unlimited on that date.