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No Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Absence of Physical Contact

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Joseph E. Kozely
Foster Swift No-Fault E-News
March 3, 2008

On February 26, 2008, the Michigan Court of Appeals held in an unpublished opinion that summary disposition should have been granted for Defendant in an Uninsured Motorist (UM) dispute where Plaintiff could not show that there was contact with the unidentified vehicle. Seger v Hartford Insurance Company of the Midwest, Docket No. 274572. An unpublished case does not establish precedent.

The case arose out of an automobile accident in which the Plaintiff swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle and hit a tree. The terms of the uninsured motorist provision in the Plaintiff’s insurance policy specified physical contact in order to trigger coverage. Plaintiff sought benefits arguing that the policy term mandating physical contact was satisfied by her having hit the tree. The trial court denied a defense motion for summary disposition. The Court of Appeals reversed:

For plaintiff to have uninsured motorist coverage under her policy, an uninsured vehicle must cause an object to hit plaintiff’s vehicle, and not vice versa. Plaintiff may be able to prove that the unidentified vehicle caused her to hit a tree, but she cannot reasonably maintain that the unidentified vehicle caused the tree to hit her.

The dissent urged that the policy was ambiguous and therefore subject to construction against the insurer.