The Office of General Counsel issued the following informal opinion on July 17, 2000, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
Re: Supplemental Uninsured Motorist Endorsement ("SUM")
Is a domestic partner an insured under the prescribed SUM coverage endorsement?
A domestic partner does not fall within the definition of an insured under the prescribed endorsement except as an occupant of a motor vehicle insured for SUM under the policy.
You state that you and your partner are registered as a domestic partnership in New York. You were involved in a serious automobile accident in Minnesota. You do not drive, but your partner does. Your partners auto insurance policy includes the prescribed SUM endorsement.
Pursuant to N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. Title 11, §60-2.3(f) (1999), if a New York policyholder purchases SUM coverage, the declarations page of every new or renewal motor vehicle liability insurance policy must contain the prescribed endorsement for that coverage. The prescribed SUM endorsement is contained in the regulation and defines the unqualified term "insured" as:
(1) you, as the named insured and, while residents of the same household, your spouse and the relatives of either you or your spouse;
(2) any other person while occupying:
(i) a motor vehicle insured for SUM under this policy; or
(ii) any other motor vehicle while being operated by you or your spouse; and
(3) any person, with respect to damages such person is entitled to recover, because of bodily injury to which this coverage applies sustained by an insured under paragraph (1) or (2) above.
Although in your letter you asked whether a domestic partner constitutes a family member for the purposes of this endorsement, because this is a prescribed endorsement, the controlling question is whether a domestic partner falls within the above quoted definition. The courts have not interpreted the word "spouse" to include a domestic partner. See Secord v. Fischetti, 653 N.Y.S.2d 551 (1st Dept 1997), lv. denied 89 N.Y.2d 1036 (1997); cf. Slattery v. City of New York, 686 N.Y.S.2d 683 (Sup. Ct. 1999). Nor is there any authority for interpreting the term "relative" to include a domestic partner. Thus, applying your facts to the above quoted definition, you are not an insured under paragraph (1) because you are neither the named insured nor the named insureds spouse or relative.
Paragraph (2) of the prescribed endorsement defines an "insured" as "any other person while occupying a motor vehicle insured for SUM under this policy." We have insufficient facts regarding your accident to determine whether this portion of the definition would be applicable to you.
For further information you may contact Associate Attorney Joan Siegel at the New York City Office.