Trent v. Cook

In Trent v. Cook, 198 W.Va. 601, 482 S.E.2d 218 (1996), a deputy sheriff, while investigating a traffic accident, was seriously injured when he was hit by a passing automobile. The deputy sheriff sought UIM benefits from the insurance carrier for the State of West Virginia that provided coverage for the Wyoming County Commission, his employer. As a threshold matter, the insurance carrier argued, inter alia, that the insurance policy, having been issued to a governmental entity under the West Virginia Governmental Tort Claims and Insurance Reform Act ("Governmental Tort Claims Act"), W.Va. Code 29-12A-1, et seq. was a socalled "custom-designed" policy; consequently, the policy was not required to comply with the uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage requirements of W.Va. Code 33-6-31. The Court agreed and held that under W.Va. Code 29-12A-16(a) 1986 of the Governmental Tort Claims Act, the Board and governmental entities have broad discretion with regard to the type and amount of insurance to obtain. Consequently, when an insurer issues a custom-designed policy to a governmental entity pursuant to the...Act..., that entity may incorporate language absolutely limiting liability under the policy, even if such language would otherwise violate the provisions of West Virginia Code 33-6-31(b) (1996). (Trent, at syl. Pt. 1, in relevant part.) In Trent, the Court also addressed whether the workers' compensation exclusion in the State's insurance policy barred the injured deputy sheriff from recovering UIM benefits. Similar to the workers' compensation exclusion at issue in the instant case, the exclusion in Trent provided that "'this insurance does not apply to ... any obligation for which the "insured" or the "insured's" insurer may be held liable under workers' compensation, disability benefits or unemployment compensation law or any similar law.'" Id., 198 W.Va. at 607-08, 482 S.E.2d at 225. Having concluded, in Trent, that the State's insurance was "custom-designed" and that, under W.Va. Code 29-12A-16(a) of the Governmental Tort Claims Act, a governmental entity such as the Wyoming County Commission "may incorporate terms in such a policy absolutely limiting its liability, even where such limitation would otherwise violate... W.Va. Code 33-6-31," id., 198 W.Va. at 609, 482 S.E.2d at 226, the Court upheld the workers' compensation exclusion as valid and enforceable.