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Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co.

Supreme Court of Missouri

July 29, 2014

REBECCA FLOYD-TUNNELL, ET AL., Appellants,
v.
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent

Argued and Submitted May 7, 2014.

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY. The Honorable W. Brent Powell, Judge.

Floyd and Floyd-Tunnell were represented by James E. Corbett, David T. Tunnell and Daniel P. Molloy of Corbett Law Firm PC in Springfield.

Shelter was represented by William Clayton Crawford and James P. Maloney of Foland, Wickens, Eisfelder, Roper & Hofer PC in Kansas City.

Mary R. Russell, Chief Justice. Breckenridge, Fischer, Stith, and Wilson, JJ., concur; Teitelman, J., dissents in separate opinion filed; Draper, J., concurs in opinion of Teitelman, J.

OPINION

Page 216

Mary R. Russell, Chief Justice.

The widow of a man killed in an automobile accident sued the automobile liability insurance carrier seeking uninsured motorist (" UM" ) coverage for her husband's wrongful death. The trial court held that the insurer's liability was limited by an " owned-vehicle" partial exclusion in the couple's policies, which limited coverage when an insured was injured while occupying a vehicle owned by the insured but not covered by the policy. The widow appealed, arguing that she was entitled to coverage for the damages she sustained as a result of her husband's death and that the partial exclusion did not apply to her because she was not in the car when the accident occurred. Alternatively, she argues the partial exclusion is ambiguous because it limits coverage granted elsewhere in the policies.

This Court affirms. Although the widow is an insured, she is not entitled to UM coverage because she did not sustain bodily injuries. The insurer provided coverage for the decedent's wrongful death, and the partial exclusion unambiguously limits this coverage.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Doris Floyd's husband, Jerry, was killed in an automobile accident with an uninsured motorist.[1] At the time of the accident,

Page 217

Jerry and Doris were the named insureds on three automobile liability insurance policies issued by Shelter Mutual Insurance Company for three vehicles they owned. One policy covered the car Jerry was driving when the accident occurred, and the other two policies covered other cars owned by the Floyds. Each policy's declarations page provided that UM coverage was limited to $100,000 per person, but the policies also included an " owned-vehicle" partial exclusion that further limited coverage if the insured was injured while occupying a vehicle owned by the insured but not covered by the policy. The partial exclusion limited coverage to $25,000, the minimum amount required by Missouri's UM statute, section 379.203.[2]

Doris sued Shelter seeking $100,000 of UM coverage under each policy for a total of $300,000.[3] Shelter paid $150,000: $100,000 under the policy on the vehicle Jerry was driving when the accident occurred, and $25,000 under each of the other two policies. The parties agreed that Shelter had paid the full amount of UM coverage available under the first policy, but Doris argued that Shelter owed $75,000 under each of the other two policies.

Both parties moved for summary judgment. Doris claimed that she was entitled to UM coverage for the damages she sustained from her husband's wrongful death, and the partial exclusion did not apply to her because she was not in the car when the accident occurred. In the alternative, Doris argued that the partial exclusion rendered the policies ambiguous because it limited coverage granted elsewhere in each policy. Shelter argued that the partial exclusion applied to Doris's claim and unambiguously limited its liability to $25,000 under each policy. The trial court ruled that the partial exclusion applied and was unambiguous and granted Shelter's motion for summary judgment. Doris appeals.[4]

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 380 (Mo. banc 1993). Because the propriety of summary judgment is an issue of law, this Court's review is de novo. Id. at 376. The interpretation of an insurance policy and the determination whether coverage and exclusion provisions are ambiguous are also questions of law that this Court reviews de novo. Burns v. Smith, 303 S.W.3d 505, 509 (Mo. banc 2010).

III. Analysis

The issue in this case is whether the partial exclusion limits Shelter's liability under two of the policies to $25,000 per policy. The general rule in interpreting an insurance policy is to give the language its plain meaning. Allen v. Cont'l W. Ins. Co., 436 S.W.3d 548, No. SC93502, 2014 WL 2191034, at *4 (Mo. banc May 27, 2014). The entire policy and not just isolated provisions must be considered. Id. If the policy's language is ...


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