No stacking allowed -- Missouri law

In Chandler, vs. Allied Property & Casualty insurance Company, Huber was killed while a passenger in a car driven by Jimenez. Chandler got a judgment against Jimenez for $200,000 and then went after Jimenez's insurance company to collect.  But the trial court ruled Chandler could only get $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, and $2,000 in medical payments coverage, under the policy, and the appellate court affirmed.  The policy listed three vehicles, and beside each vehicle showed liability limits of $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident and $2,000 in medical payments.  The policy said the limits were the maximum the insurance company would pay for any one auto accident, regardless of the number of claims made or vehicles on the policy.  The court noted the case involves a single policy insuring multiple vehicles. A materially different coverage question would be presented if the vehicles were insured under separate policies. But, there was nothing to stack under this policy and the trial court's order was affirmed.

 

 

Stacking of Underinsured Motorist Coverage -- Missouri Law

In Jordan v. Safeco, the 8th Circuit reversed a lower court decision against stacking underinsured motorist coverage (UIM).  The 8th Circuit disagreed with the trial court regarding the application of  Ritchie v. Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Co., 307 S.W.3d 132 (Mo. 2009), which permitted the  stacking of underinsured motorist coverage, and reversed summary judgment to Safeco, remanding for entry of partial summary judgment in favor of the insured, Jordan.  The district court ruled the Ritchie decision permitted the stacking of UIM coverage only applies to situations where the insured is occupying a non-owned vehicle.  Thus, the Other Insurance clause in the Safeco policies was not applicable to Jordan because she was a pedestrian. And, absent the applicability of the Other Insurance clause, the policies unambiguously prohibit the “stacking” of UIM coverage.

In its discussion, the 8th Circuit notes that UM -- Uninsured Motorist coverage may be stacked and non stacking policies have been struck down.  But there is no public policy which prohibits non stacking underinsured  (UIM) policies. In Ritchie, the Missouri Supreme Court held that the "other insurance clause" made the policy ambiguous, and that the holding was not limited to situations when the insured is occupying a non-owned vehicle. 

Missouri law requires stacking of auto liability policies up to minimum limits

In Dutton v. American Family Mutual, the Missouri Court of Appeals decided that Missouri's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) required stacking of separate liability polices for the minimum required amount of $25,000 each. 

Dutton was injured in a car wreck by American Family's insured, Hiles.  Dutton's damages exceeded $50,000.  Hiles had two policies, one on the Nissan she was driving in the accident, and one on a Ford pickup truck.  Each policy has limits of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident -- the minimum required amounts under Missouri law.  American Family paid $25,000 from the policy insuring the Nissan, but claimed that there was no requirement that it pay anything from the policy insuring the Ford.  Summary judgment to American Family was reversed.  Every owner's motor vehicle insurance policy must provide minimum limits of liability coverage pursuant to the MVFRL.  First, the court found the Ford policy covered the accident. 

Where there are two applicable owner's policies, they both provide some coverage because the MVFRL requires minimum coverage in every applicable policy. (citing American Standard Insurance Co. v. Hargrave, 34 S.W.3d 88 (Mo. banc 2000).  Where each of the insurance policies in question is an owner's policy, each qualifying owner's policy must pay the minimum required liability coverage amount.  Hargrave  concluded that because there were two valid owner's policies at the time of the accident, both policies would be required to pay the minimum $25,000 as required by the MVFRL.  That is what the Court in Dutton decided as well.

The court noted that this rule does not apply to any amounts under the policies which exceed the minimum limits required by law.  The court also said the amounts due under the Ford policy were not in excess of the amounts due under the policy involved in the accident.

The court then agreed that under the MVFRL, any exclusions or limitations are inapplicable or invalid, citing Karscig v. McConville, 303 S.W.3d 499 (Mo. banc 2010). In Karscig, the MVFRL's provision relating to the requirements of an operator's policy mandated minimal coverage of $25,000 on every policy, despite the exclusions. Minimal coverage thus was stacked on the owner's policy limit maintained by the tortfeasor's parents, despite not only this exclusion but also anti-stacking limitations.  Because the exclusion and the anti-stacking language in American Family's policy negate mandatory minimal coverage required under the MVFRL, the trial court erred in ruling against Dutton.

No Stacking Underinsured Motorist Coverage under multiple car policy -- Missouri Law

Becker v. Allied, Missouri Court of Appeals Div. 3.

The Beckers insured 5 vehicles with Allied.  The policy provided underinsured motorist coverage (UIM coverage).  The policy said the liability limit for UIM coverage was $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.  When the Beckers were seriously injured in a car wreck, they wanted to stack the coverages under all the policies to pay for their injuries.  Previously, they got a judgment against the negligent driver for $6.7 Million, but only collected $25,000, the negligent driver’s insurance limits.  The Beckers wanted the $100,000 per person per policy stacked, and made a claim on Allied for $2,166,000 in UIM coverage.  Allied tendered $300,000, the per accident limit.  The trial court found that Allied only owed $300,000. 

On appeal, the court defines stacking as an insured’s ability to obtain multiple insurance coverage benefits for an injury either under multiple policies which cover the incident, or from multiple coverages under one policy such as where one policy covers more than one vehicle.  The Beckers claimed that the policy was ambiguous, but the court found that there was nothing to stack – that although there were separate liability coverages per car, there was only one UM/UIM coverage on the policy. 
 

No Underinsured Stacking -- Missouri law

Statutes require stacking of uninsured coverage but not of underinsured coverage.  Decedent had two policies, one for each motorcycle he owned, each with a $300,000 limit.  Policy provision that "limits shown for a vehicle may not be combined with the limits for the same coverage on another vehicle" unambiguously barred stacking.  Using "combine" for one coverage and "stack" for another, and "vehicle" in one place and "motorcycle" in another, did not create ambiguity.  Summary judgment for insurer affirmed.   

Corrigan v. Progressive Ins. Co.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED99380

Policy Barred Underinsured Stacking -- Mo Law

Policy Barred Underinsured Stacking
Automobile policy provided underinsured motorist coverage of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. Because only one person sustained injury by underinsured motorist, $50,000 maximum applied.  Provision for "other/excess" insurance unambiguously did not allow more than when read with two anti-stacking disclaimers.  Summary judgment for insured reversed, case remanded for further proceedings. 
KEVIN P. KENNEDY, Respondent, vs. SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY OF ILLINOIS, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD32345

"Owned" vehicle exclusion and underinsured motorist coverage, Missouri law

In Manner v. Schiermeier, Manner was severely injured when the motorcycle he was driving was hit by a car driven by Schiermeier.  Manner had $1.5 Million in damages.  Manner sued Schiermeier for negligence, and Schiermeier’s insurer paid its $100,000 liability limit.  Manner then sued his insurance companies for underinsured motorist coverage.  The trial court granted the insurers summary judgment on the grounds that the "owned vehicle exclusion" precluded coverage.  The Missouri Supreme Court reversed.

Manner had agreed to buy the motorcycle from his uncle, but Manner was still paying for it, and the uncle still had the title when the accident occurred.  Simply because Manner had an insurable interest in the motorcycle did not make him the owner of the motorcycle.  Because the insurers did not define "owner" to include anyone with an insurable interest in the vehicle, the insurers had not met their burden of proof on this issue.

The policies defined an "underinsured motorist" as one who's liability limits are "less than the limits of liability of this Underinsured Motorists coverage."  The insurers argued that since the liability limits of Schiermeier were the same as the UM limits, the tortfeasor, Schiermeier was not an underinsured motorist.   The Supreme Court rejected this argument as well, citing Seeck v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., 212 S.W.3d 129 (Mo. banc 2007).

If the UM policies permits coverage from multiple policies to be stacked, then the coverage provided by the policies is their stacked amount, not the amount each would provide if considered separately, and it is the stacked amount that must be compared against the insurance coverage of the tortfeasor.  When insurance policies permit stacking, the coverage contracted for is the total of the policy limits when stacked.  In this case, the policies allowed stacking because of the excess clause in the UIM coverage. 

Finally, the insurers argued they should get a credit for the $100,000 paid by the tortfeasor.  The Court rejected this claim, stating:  

The policy promises to pay the listed limits of liability, not simply the listed limits of liability reduced by the amount paid by the tortfeasor. Insurers’ construction of the policy would permit the policy to promise to pay the full limits of liability and yet these limits never would be paid as the amount of liability promised always would be reduced by the recovery from the other driver.

The court also rejected the insurers' claim that the amount Manner received from a settlement of with the helmet manufacturer should also be deducted. 

 

 

No UM Stacking under Allstate policy, Missouri law

In Hall v. Allstate, the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of the insured on a claim for stacked UM.  Brian Hall was seriously injured in an automobile accident. After exhausting the tortfeasor’s policy limits, Mr. Hall and his wife filed a claim seeking underinsured motorist coverage provided in an Allstate insurance policy. The parties submitted the matter to the trial court on cross-motions for summary judgment. All agree that Mr. Hall should recover underinsured motorist benefits. The parties disagree on whether that coverage should stack. The parties also dispute whether Mrs. Hall is entitled to recover separate underinsured motorist benefits for her loss-of-consortium claim. The trial court permitted stacking, and thus entered summary judgment in favor of the Halls and against Allstate. Allstate appeals that decision. The trial court, however, ruled that Mrs. Hall was not entitled to recover separate underinsured motorist benefits for her loss-of-consortium claim, and therefore entered summary judgment against her. The Halls appeal that decision.

Because the policy unambiguously prohibits stacking of underinsured coverage, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s summary judgment permitting such stacking. The policy expressly barred “stacking” of underinsured liabilities and the limits-of-liability provision applied that limitation to each insured vehicle. Underinsured coverage had an “other insurance” clause that allowed stacking but only in excess of coverage “under another policy.”  No ambiguity in that language.

The trial court’s entry of summary judgment denying separate underinsured motorist benefits for Mrs. Hall’s loss-of-consortium claim was affirmed.

 

Underinsurance - Stacking more than one UM policy -- Missouri law

In Graham v. State Farm, summary judgment to the insured was reversed on appeal.  The primary UM  limits exceeded the insured's UM limits.  The State Farm policy language was clear and unambiguous, providing underinsured motorist coverage only to the extent that the State Farm policy limits exceed those of any primary underinsured motorist coverage. Thus, because the primary underinsured motorist coverage exceeded the State Farm policy limits, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for $100,000 in favor of Graham. Reversed and remanded.

Other states would have permitted stacking of coverage up to all limits available to cover the insured's damages.  In this case, the court distinguished the case from Jones v. Mid-Century Ins. Co., 287 S.W.3d 687 (Mo. banc 2009), noting there was a possibility that the insurer would have to pay limits in this case, while in the Jones case, the insurer would never have to pay limits. 

The court concluded:

As explained in Sommers, the language regarding the limit of liability and the provision regarding other underinsured coverage are not duplicitous, uncertain, or indistinct. 954 S.W.2d at 20. The Supreme Court's analysis of substantially different policy language and circumstances in Jones does not alter this determination. The trial court erred in granting summary judgment against State Farm and in entering judgment in favor of Graham in the amount of $1 00,000. We reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion

Exclusions make policy ambiguous

The Missouri Western Court of Appeals for the Western District was looking at an auto policy to determine if the liability coverage "stacked."  In finding that the policy was ambiguous, the Court indicates that exclusions make a policy ambiguous.

In Durbin v. Detrick, Durbin was injured by Deitrick, [the insured or covered individual], while Deitrick was operating a vehicle he did not own. Because Deitrick’s four personal automotive liability policies are ambiguous as to whether they may be stacked in this specific circumstance, we must construe the policy language against American Family and in favor of permitting stacking of Deitrick’s four liability policies. On cross motions for summary judgment, the trial court found for the insured, and this was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

The Court notes: “Where an insurance policy promises the insured something at one point but then takes it away at another, there is an ambiguity.” Thus, “if policy language is ambiguous as to whether stacking is permitted, we construe the language of the policy against the insurer and in favor of stacking.”

The Court concluded “that while the Limits of Liability provision and Section 3 of the General Provisions in the American Family policies appear to generally prohibit the stacking of multiple liability policies, the language of the second sentence of the Other Insurance provision, analogous to that of Ritchie and Niswonger, could reasonably be understood by a lay person to indicate an exception to this general prohibition in the specific case where liability coverage is afforded for injuries incurred through use of a vehicle not owned by a covered individual.”

 

Here is the policy language

 

PART I – LIABILITY COVERAGE ….

We will pay compensatory damages an insured person is legally liable for because of bodily injury and property damage due to the use of a car or utility trailer. ….

LIMITS OF LIABILITY

The limits of liability shown in the declarations apply, subject to the following. . . We will pay no more than these maximums no matter how many vehicles are described in the declarations, or insured persons, claims, claimants, policies or vehicles are involved. ….

OTHER INSURANCE

If there is other auto liability insurance for a loss covered by this Part, we will pay our share according to this policy’s proportion of the total of all liability limits. But, any insurance provided under this Part for a vehicle you do not own is excess over any other collectible auto liability insurance.

….

GENERAL PROVISIONS

….

3.         Two or More Cars Insured. The total of our liability under all policies issued to you by us shall not exceed the highest limit of liability under any one policy.