Exhaustion of Limits does not make tortfeasor uninsured, Missouri Law

In Leslie Hill vs. Government Employee Insurance Company, Leslie was injured in a car accident when she was struck by Malone who was drunk.  Malone's insurer paid its limits on the claim, and then Leslie went after the owner of the car, Malone's father.  But the limits had been paid, so there was no money to pay any claim by Leslie against the owner.  Leslie therefore claimed the owner was "uninsured" and made a claim on her own insurance company for uninsured motorist benefit.  Apparently, Leslie did not purchase under-insured motorist benefits.

The trial court granted the insurance company's motion for summary judgment and the court of appeals affirmed.  The issue was appropriate for summary judgment, as it was a contract question, and the facts were undisputed.  The issue of whether an insured is entitled to uninsured motorist (UM) benefits is based on the insurance policy, not tort law.  Furthermore, the owner was not uninsured since he had an insurance policy with the minimum statutory limits.  The fact that those limits were not available to pay claims did not make him "uninsured".  

In addition, the tort of negligent entrustment was covered by the policy. 

 

Some states and /or policies require that uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage be sold together, but apparently, not Missouri.  Oklahoma requires both to be sold together.  The court looked to Leslie's own policy to determine whether the owner was uninsured, because the policy defined that term. This can be a tricky area for both insureds and attorneys.

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