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AMERICAN CENTENNIAL INS. CO. v. SINKLER

October 26, 1995

AMERICAN CENTENNIAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff, against JAMES SINKLER, JAMES SINKLER, JR., JOHN CABAN AND CARMEN GARCIA, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINSTEIN

 Weinstein, J.

 Table of Contents

 I. INTRODUCTION

 II. FACTS

 III. PROCEEDINGS

 IV. RIPENESS

 V. CHOICE-OF-LAW

 
A. New York Law
 
B. South Carolina Law
 
C. Choice-of-Law Rules

 VI. APPLICATION OF LAW TO FACTS RELATING TO CHOICE-OF-LAW

 
A. Grouping of Contacts
 
B. The Interests of the States
 
1. South Carolina
 
2. New York
 
C. Conclusion

 VII. SOUTH CAROLINA LAW

 
A. Summary Judgment
 
B. Rescission Affecting Third Parties

 VIII. APPLICATION OF SOUTH CAROLINA LAW TO FACTS

 IX. CONCLUSION

 I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff American Centennial Insurance Company brought this action for a declaratory judgment that it had the right to rescind ab initio its auto insurance policy issued to defendant James Sinkler who obtained it through fraudulent misrepresentations. For the reasons indicated below plaintiff is entitled to the relief it seeks.

 II. FACTS

 The facts are uncontested. Four New York residents were involved in a two-car collision in Brooklyn, New York on October 20, 1992. Sinkler drove one car; his son, James, jr., was a passenger. John Caban drove the other car; his mother, Carmen Garcia, was a passenger.

 Sinkler held an auto insurance policy issued by Centennial in South Carolina. He had stated on the application that he was a resident of Pinewood, South Carolina and that he would garage the insured vehicle there. Centennial is authorized to issue policies only to South Carolina drivers and owners resident in that state.

 After the accident Centennial discovered that Sinkler had lied on his insurance application. In a March 1993 written statement concerning the accident, he listed a Brooklyn address as his residence and admitted that he had been living at that address since 1971 and in New York since 1964. According to the statement, he had been planning to move back to South Carolina, and that the address given on the application was his mother's.

 III. PROCEEDINGS

 Sinkler has brought an action in state court for personal injuries against Garcia and Caban. Garcia held a policy issued by Government Employees Insurance Company in New York. Neither Sinkler, jr. nor Caban and Garcia have pending lawsuits. Caban and Garcia have represented that they have no plans to bring an action, but colloquy with the court suggest strongly that they probably will file a claim against Sinkler.

 Centennial seeks declaratory judgment authorizing it to rescind Sinkler's insurance policy ab initio (as if it never existed), thus avoiding any obligation to Sinkler or to third persons that could arise out of the accident. Centennial claimed Sinkler's misrepresentations were material to the decision to issue coverage.

 Sinkler defaulted, resulting in an order as to him rescinding his policy. The order relieved Centennial of the duty either to defend Sinkler or to pay any judgment or settlement rendered against Sinkler.

 The remaining issue is whether Centennial is entitled to a declaratory judgment absolving it of liability to Sinkler, jr., Caban or Garcia for any injuries they sustained in the ...


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