In April 2013, Arthur J. Park’s article, What to Reasonably Expect in the Coming Years from the Reasonable Expectations of the Insured Doctrine, was published in volume 49 of the Willamette Law Review. The article discusses some major cases that have rejected the “REI” doctrine and how the REI doctrine should be used by the courts going forward as a limitation on the traditional contra preferentum approach.
After Professor Keeton articulated it in 1970, the states have essentially developed four variations of the REI doctrine: (1) the unqualified version, (2) the prominence-based version, (3) the ambiguity-based version, and (4) the hybrid version. In addition, the REI doctrine has received both rave reviews and severe critiques. Although a few recent cases have completely rejected the REI doctrine, the REI doctrine should continue to assist the courts in insurance coverage disputes in the coming years. However, that assistance should come in the form of a middle ground or compromise. In other words, the REI doctrine should be applies as a limitation on the contra proferentem doctrine because ambiguous policy language should not automatically be construed against the insurer. When faced with ambiguous policy language, the courts should further analyze the reasonable expectations of the insured before ruling in favor of coverage.