King sues his insurance company for $10 million

Posted: February 13, 2001, 19:01
Author sues insurer in dispute over coverage for injuries from 1999 crash
By Associated Press, 02/13/01

BANGOR, Maine -- Horror writer Stephen King has sued his insurance company for $10 million, claiming it failed to provide full coverage for injuries he sustained when struck by a van in western Maine two years ago.

The lawsuit against Commercial Union York Insurance Co., which has branches in Portland and Bangor, was filed last week in Penobscot County Superior Court.

King and his wife, Tabitha, will seek the umbrella policy's $10 million limit plus interest of 1.5 percent per month, according to their attorney, Warren M. Silver of Bangor, who said the figure falls well short of the Kings' physical and financial damages.

"He has had some very significant problems and continues to have them," Silver said. "He is having trouble, but has been able to deal with the pain, and continues to work because he is such a strong person and focused person."

King, 53, was injured in June 1999 when a van driven by Bryan Smith of Fryeburg struck the author as he was walking along the shoulder of Route 5 near his vacation home in Lovell.

King suffered a broken leg and hip, punctured lung, broken ribs and other injuries. He has undergone five surgeries since the accident, and Silver said another operation will likely be performed this summer.

In a statement issued through its law firm, Commercial Union said King's umbrella policy is designed to cover only his liability to others, and specifically excludes personal injury caused by an underinsured motorist.

Commercial Union paid King $450,000 under his uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, a figure that represents the policys $500,000 limit less the $50,000 liability settlement with Smith.

"Mr. King had a very serious accident and his insurance policies responded as intended," said the statement released by the Portland law firm of Norman, Hanson & DeTroy.

In his lawsuit, Silver said the restriction on the umbrella policy is not allowed under Maine law.

Smith, who told police he had been distracted by his dog before hitting King, later pleaded guilty to driving to endanger and his license was suspended for six months.

Nine months later, Smith, 43, was found dead in his home after an accidental overdose of a prescription painkiller.

Kings lawsuit states that as a result of Smiths negligence, King "sustained very serious, substantial, and permanent physical injuries" and has "endured pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of capacity of enjoyment of life, and significant lost income."

Despite the lawsuit, the Kings have retained their policy with the company, according to Silver.