Thom v. 1st Auto & Casualty Insurance Company (Auto Insurance)

In Thom v. 1st Auto & Casualty Insurance Company (2020AP285), the District IV Court of Appeals determined an insurer’s liability for a vehicle covered but not specifically described by a policy issued by that insurer.


Thom was severely injured when she was involved in a car accident with another vehicle driven by a thirteen-year-old child. Thom sought a money judgement against the child’s insurers for the child’s negligent operation of the vehicle and against the child’s parents (Jason and Wendy Foerster) for alleged failure to supervise their child.

Rural Mutual Insurance Company insured Jason, Wendy, and any family member for their use of “any auto.” At the time of the accident, the Foerster’s child was operating his aunt’s vehicle with her permission. The parties disputed whether that vehicle is “described” in the Foerster’s Rural Mutual policy and whether the insurer’s maximum liability is $300,000 or $900,000 under Wis. Stat. § 632.32(3).

The circuit court determined Rural Mutual’s maximum liability to be $300,000 and subsequently granted Thom’s motion requesting prejudgment interest. Thom appealed the court’s ruling on maximum liability while Rural Mutual cross-appealed the award of prejudgment interest.


The appellate court affirmed the circuit court’s orders on both maximum liability and prejudgment interest but used a different rationale: “Specifically, we conclude that Wis. Stat. § 632.32(3)’s requirements do not supersede the policy’s $300,000 limit of liability because the aunt’s vehicle is not ‘a motor vehicle described in the [Rural] policy,’ as required by § 632.32(3). We also affirm the order requiring Rural to pay statutory prejudgment interest. At the pertinent time, the conditions necessary to trigger interest under Wis. Stat. § 628.46 were satisfied.”

This opinion was recommended for publication in the official reports.