In Neptune v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co., the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed whether uninsured motorist (UM) coverage applied in an accident where there was no evidence of a “hit” from the uninsured vehicle.
In April 2019, Maria Neptune worked as a driver for Lyft, a rideshare company. She accepted a request to provide a ride from Houston, Texas, to nearby Cypress, Texas. When Neptune arrived in her SUV at the pick-up location, a young man entered her vehicle. Neptune noticed a second man approaching and asked her passenger if the second man was with him. The passenger said no and asked her to drive away quickly. As Neptune began to pull away, the second man began to shoot at the SUV, shattering the rear window.
Despite the altercation, Neptune continued with the trip and reached the drop-off location, a gated community. However, the passenger did not have the correct code to open the gate. As Neptune was driving around the community looking for another entrance, an unidentified vehicle pulled behind her SUV and began shooting at it. Neptune successfully drove away. About two miles from where she last saw the unidentified vehicle, Neptune struck an “island or sidewalk” and crashed into a wall.
Neptune filed a claim for UM coverage under Lyft’s insurance issued by Indian Harbor Insurance Co. The Indian Harbor policy defined an “uninsured motor vehicle” as a “hit-and-run vehicle whose operator or owner cannot be identified. The vehicle must hit an ‘insured,’ a covered ‘auto’ or a vehicle an ‘insured’ is occupying.” Indian Harbor denied coverage on the ground that there was no “hit” by the unidentified vehicle. Neptune subsequently filed suit against Indian Harbor.During discovery, Neptune testified that it was “possible” the unidentified vehicle hit her. She also testified that there was damage to her rear bumper. However, she could not state if the rear bumper damage was caused by the other vehicle. Indian Harbor moved for summary judgment, arguing that the policy’s UM coverage did not apply because there was no evidence that the unidentified vehicle “hit” Neptune. In rebuttal, Neptune did not point to her testimony regarding the rear bumper damage. Ultimately, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Indian Harbor, holding that Neptune’s lone statement regarding the possibility the other vehicle hit her was not enough to survive summary judgment.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court. In its opinion, the court held that Neptune failed to submit rebuttal evidence to oppose Indian Harbor’s motion. The court went even further, noting that Neptune testified she last saw the vehicle two miles from the accident location, a fact favoring Indian Harbor. As for whether the district court erred by not considering Neptune’s testimony regarding rear bumper damage, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court had no duty to “sift through the record in search of evidence to support a party’s opposition to summary judgment.” Because Neptune did not bring that portion of her testimony to the district court’s attention, the Fifth Circuit found that the district court committed no error by not considering it. Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit held the trial court correctly determined that the policy’s UM coverage did not apply.