Michigan Court of Appeals Unanimously Reverses Summary Disposition for Uninsured Motorist Insurer Based on Policy Language
Foster Swift No-Fault E-News
August 14, 2008
The Michigan Court of Appeals has unanimously reversed summary disposition for Defendant, holding that Plaintiff may still seek uninsured motorist (UM) benefits from the insurer of the vehicle she was driving even though settlement proceeds from separate litigation against other drivers involved in the accident exceeded the policy's $300,000 limit on UM coverage. Berkeypile v Westfield Insurance Company (No. 274177, 8/12/2008).
Plaintiff was injured in a multi-car accident while riding in a company vehicle that was insured by Westfield under a commercial automobile policy that included UM coverage of $300,000 per accident. Plaintiff first filed a tort action against three of the drivers involved in the accident. As a result of facilitation, they settled with Plaintiff for amounts that totaled $332,500.
Westfield denied Plaintiff's UM claim, arguing principally that the policy limit should be reduced by the aggregate of the settlements, leaving Westfield with no obligation to provide plaintiff with UM benefits. The trial court granted summary disposition to Westfield. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the settlement proceeds should be offset against the total amount of damages, as of yet to be determined, and not against the UM policy limit of $300,000.
The case turned on a careful interpretation of the language of the Westfield policy, which included an anti-duplication provision. The Court of Appeals distinguished between a "second payment" and a "duplicate payment" in holding that Berkeypile was not "double-dipping." The case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings.
Insureds and insurers who are confronted with questions about UM coverage provisions in an automobile policy should include Berkeypile in their quest for answers.