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Dutton v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

February 3, 2015

ADAM DUTTON, Appellant,
v.
AMERICAN FAMILY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY. Honorable Marco A. Roldan, Judge.

Dutton was represented by Randall W. Brown of Thorberry, Eischens & Brown LLC in Kansas City.

American Family was represented by Susan Ford Robertson and J. Zachary Bickel of The Robertson Law Group LLC in Kansas City; and Christopher J. Carpenter and Tracy M. Hayes of Sanders Warren & Russell LLP in Overland Park, Kansas.

The Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers was represented by Dale L. Beckerman and Mimi E. Doherty of Deacy & Deacy LLP in Kansas City.

Farmers Insurance Company Inc. was represented by Russell F. Watters and T. Michael Ward of Brown & James PC in St. Louis.

The Missouri Insurance Coalition and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies were represented by Jill R. Jackson of Ford, Parshall & Baker in Columbia.

LAURA DENVIR STITH, JUDGE. Russell, C.J., Breckenridge, Fischer, Draper and Wilson, JJ., concur; Teitelman, J., dissents.

OPINION

Page 320

Laura Denvir Stith, Judge

Adam Dutton appeals the trial court's entry of judgment in favor of American Family Mutual Insurance Company on Mr. Dutton's claim that coverage was provided for an accident caused by American Family's insured under two policies purchased by the insured, one on a Nissan owned by the insured and that the insured was driving at the time of the accident and the other on a Ford also owned by the insured but not involved in the accident. The policy on the vehicle not involved in the accident by its terms does not provide coverage because the policy contains a specific exclusion for other vehicles owned by the insured but not insured under that policy. But Mr. Dutton argued that the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), section 303.010 to section 303.390,[1] required American Family to pay the statutory minimum of $25,000 as a matter of public policy, which could not be negated by an exclusion.

The trial court rejected this argument as to the policy on the vehicle not involved in the accident. This Court agrees and affirms. The MVFRL by its terms only requires coverage of specifically designated vehicles and of other vehicles used by the insured but that are not owned by the insured. Therefore, the Ford policy does not cover the Nissan because it was owned but not designated in the Ford policy.

Page 321

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Barbara Hiles owned two vehicles: a 2007 Nissan Maxima and a 2003 Ford F-250. Ms. Hiles is the named insured on separate American Family insurance policies she purchased on each of these owned vehicles (" the Nissan policy" and " the Ford policy" ). Both policies are identical, and each has a policy limit of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.

On May 25, 2009, Mr. Dutton was injured in a motor vehicle accident when Ms. Hiles' Nissan collided with his vehicle at or near the intersection of N.E. Adams Dairy Parkway and N.E. Napoleon Drive in Blue Springs. Ms. Hiles' Ford was not involved in the accident. It is undisputed that Ms. Hiles was at fault for the collision. On December 2, 2010, Mr. Dutton filed a lawsuit against Ms. Hiles in the Jackson County circuit court for damages related to the May 25, 2009, accident. Although the Ford was not involved in the accident, Mr. Dutton made a settlement demand of $50,000, which was the combined policy limits of the Nissan policy added to what he claims are the minimum policy limits required under the MVFRL for the Ford policy issued to Ms. Hiles by American Family.

On March 30, 2011, Mr. Dutton, Ms. Hiles, and American Family entered into a settlement of Mr. Dutton's claims against Ms. Hiles under which Mr. Dutton received $25,000 under the Nissan policy and was assigned Ms. Hiles' right to sue American Family for any coverage provided by the Ford policy.

On April 4, 2011, Mr. Dutton filed a declaratory judgment action against American Family seeking a determination whether the Ford policy provides $25,000 coverage for the injuries sustained by Mr. Dutton in the May 25, 2009, accident (in addition to the $25,000 provided by the Nissan policy). Mr. Dutton moved for summary judgment, arguing that every owner's liability policy issued in Missouri must meet the minimum requirements of the MVFRL and, therefore, the Ford policy must cover an accident in the Nissan even though the Ford was not involved in the accident.

The trial court entered judgment for American Family, explaining in relevant part:

The Court, after considering the parties' positions, and it appears as a matter of law that: (1) while every owner's liability policy issued in Missouri must meet the minimum requirements of the Missouri Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, MVFRL, ยง 303.190.2, RSMo, there is no requirement in the MVFRL that each owner's liability policy must provide the minimum limits under ...

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