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Insurance – Auto – UIM Coverage – Civil Practice – Declaratory Judgment Action – Burden of Proof – Policy

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Phillips (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-091-17, 9 pp.) (Donna Stroud, J.) Appealed from Onslow County Superior Court (Benjamin Alford, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.

Holding: Even though the plaintiff-insurance company filed this declaratory judgment action, since defendant contended that he was covered under the policy that plaintiff issued to defendant’s father, defendant had the burden of proof. Defendant failed to introduce the policy into evidence, so defendant failed to satisfy his burden of proof.

We affirm the trial court’s entry of a directed verdict for plaintiff.

At issue was whether defendant was a “resident” of the household of the insured, his father, Patrick Sharpless. The complaint quoted only this language from the policy: “person related to [Sharpless] by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of [Sharpless’s] household.” Defendant admitted this in his answer.

Even if we assume that the phrase from the policy alleged in the complaint can be considered as “evidence,” one phrase with no context is not sufficient evidence of the terms of the policy. Though defendant argues the term “resident” is not defined in the policy, as alleged by plaintiff, there may be other relevant definitions and terms in the policy. Furthermore, even if none of the definitions in the policy would be relevant, the sentence fragment does not address any exceptions or restrictions.

Defendant also argues that a fact alleged in the complaint and admitted by the answer must be taken as true and no evidence need be brought before the trial court regarding that fact. Again, even if we assume that is true, defendant needed to present evidence of the other sentences surrounding the phrase quoted in the complaint – in other words, the policy. Without the whole policy in evidence or at least major relevant portions thereof, defendant failed to carry his burden of production to bring himself within the insurance coverage. The trial court properly allowed plaintiff’s motion for a directed verdict.


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