A man seriously injured in a fatal crash caused by a drunken cab driver has no claim against the cab company’s insurer, a federal appeals court said Monday.
The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit confirms a district court ruling. The courts ruled that Integrity Mutual Insurance Co. did not have any duty under Iowa law toward Brian Foster, who was injured when the taxi Mohamed Diriye, 34, was driving crashed into a Des Moines ravine on Jan. 19, 2017. Integrity insured United Cab, for whom Diriye was driving.
Mohamed Deq Said Diriye, 34, pleaded guilty to several charges, including vehicular homicide by recklessness, and was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the crash. Shawn Koltiska, 49 of Augusta, Kansas, was killed in the crash near Northeast 22nd Street and Northeast 58th Avenue in Des Moines.
According to Foster’s lawsuit, Diriye’s blood alcohol content several hours after crash was found to be 0.163, more than twice the legal limit.
Foster sued on the basis of an October 2016 motor vehicle record Integrity reportedly compiled on Diriye before granting United Cab a commercial liability policy for his driving. That report omitted a 2012 drunken driving conviction Diriye received in Minnesota, which would have made him ineligible at that time to drive a cab in Des Moines under city ordinance.
In its ruling, the court held that Integrity had no direct duty to Foster, the passenger, because “not informing United Cab of a driving violation (by Diriye) was an omission rather than a ‘sin of commission.'”
“Even assuming that Integrity could have discovered the Minnesota DWI, Integrity’s review of Diriye’s records did not put Foster in a worse situation because United Cab put Diriye behind the wheel,” Judge Jonathan Kobes wrote.
Integrity is also not liable for Foster’s injuries because United Cab performed its own driving record review of Diriye rather than simply relying on Integrity’s report, the court found.
“Even if Integrity negligently missed an out-of-state offense, it is not liable to Foster as a matter of law,” Kobe wrote.
Diriye, meanwhile, is a fugitive from justice. In March 2019, he was released on bail while appealing his case and disappeared. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said he has not yet been apprehended.
Last year, the Iowa Court of Appeals rejected Diriye’s appeal “because of his flight from justice.”
William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at email@example.com, 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.