Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rice v. Progressive Casualty Ins. Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 11, 2017

EMILY RICE and CHARLYNDA SNODGRASS, Plaintiffs,
v.
PROGRESSIVE PREFERRED INS. CO., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CAROL E. JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Also before the Court are the plaintiffs' motion to supplement their motion for summary judgment and the defendant's opposition. All issues are fully briefed.

         I. Background

         At all relevant times, plaintiffs Emily Rice and Charlynda Snodgrass were insured under identical policies of automobile insurance issued by defendant Progressive Casualty Insurance Company (Progressive).[1] The policies included underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) up to $100, 000 per person. In October 2012, Snodgrass was involved in an automobile accident in which she sustained physical injuries. In November 2012, Rice was injured in an automobile accident. Both accidents were caused by the negligence of the other drivers. Each plaintiff recovered $100, 000 - the full liability coverage available under the negligent drivers' insurance policies. However, each plaintiff sustained more than $200, 000 in injuries and damages.

         Plaintiffs submitted claims to defendant for coverage pursuant to the UIM provisions of their policies. Defendant denied the claims, asserting that the negligent drivers who caused plaintiffs' injuries were not operators of an underinsured motor vehicle as defined by the policy. Plaintiffs then filed this action, asserting claims for coverage and for vexatious refusal to pay. The parties submitted the issues for decision on cross-motions for summary judgment, stipulating that the substantive facts presented by the plaintiffs' claims are uncontroverted and identical. After submission of the briefs, plaintiffs moved to supplement their motion for summary judgment by filing an order entered by a state trial court in a case involving an underinsured motorist provision in a policy issued by defendant.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment shall be entered if the moving party shows “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment the court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts. AgriStor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). The moving party bears the burden of showing both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986); Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations of his pleadings but must set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co. v. Honea, 458 F.3d 788, 791 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Rule 56 “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         “Where parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, each summary judgment motion must be evaluated independently to determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Progressive Cas. Ins. Co. v. Morton, 140 F.Supp.3d 856, 860 (E.D. Mo. 2015) (citations omitted). Because “the interpretation and construction of insurance policies is a matter of law, . . . such cases are particularly amenable to summary judgment.” Id. (quoting John Deere Ins. Co. v. Shamrock Indus., Inc., 929 F.2d 413, 417 (8th Cir. 1991)).

         III. Discussion

         In this diversity action, the Court is bound by the decisions of the Missouri Supreme Court regarding issues of substantive state law. Owners Ins. Co. v. Hughes, 712 F.3d 392, 393 (8th Cir. 2013). Decisions by the Missouri Court of Appeals may be used as an indication of how the Missouri Supreme Court may rule, but the Court is not bound to follow these decisions. Id.

         Insurance policies are read as a whole, and the risk insured against is made up of both the general insuring agreement as well as the exclusions and definitions. Todd v. Missouri United Sch. Ins. Council, 223 S.W.3d 156, 163 (Mo. 2007). In construing the terms of an insurance policy, courts in Missouri apply the meaning an ordinary person of average understanding would attach if purchasing insurance, resolving ambiguities in favor of the insured. Dutton v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 454 S.W.3d 319, 322 (Mo. 2015). Where the policy's language is unambiguous, it must be enforced as written. Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co., 439 S.W.3d 215, 217 (Mo. 2014). Ambiguities arise when there is “duplicity, indistinctness, or uncertainty in the meaning of the language in the policy. Language is ambiguous if it is reasonably open to different constructions.” Burns v. Smith, 303 S.W.3d 505, 509 (Mo. 2010) (citation omitted). Ambiguity also arises where an insurance clause appears to provide coverage but other clauses indicate that such coverage is not provided. Seeck v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., 212 S.W.3d 129, 134 (Mo. 2007). However, “[d]efinitions, exclusions, conditions and endorsements are necessary provisions in insurance policies. If they are clear and unambiguous within the context of the policy as a whole, they are enforceable.” Todd, 223 S.W.3d at 163. Finally, a court may not create an ambiguity in order to distort the language of an unambiguous policy or to enforce a particular construction which it might feel is more appropriate. Rodriguez v. Gen. Acc. Ins. Co. of Am., 808 S.W.2d 379, 382 (Mo. 1991).

         The UIM coverage provisions at issue in this case are contained in Part III(B)[2]of an auto policy coverage endorsement.

         INSURING AGREEMENT

[W]e will pay for damages that an insured person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an underinsured motor vehicle because of bodily injury . . . arising out of the . . . use of an underinsured motor vehicle.

         Part III(B)(a)(3) [Doc. #25-1 at 43].

The policy sets forth the following definition:
“Underinsured motor vehicle” means a land motor vehicle . . . for which the sum of the limits of liability under all bodily injury liability bonds or policies applicable at the time of the accident is less than the coverage limit for Underinsured Motorist Coverage shown in the declarations page.
An “underinsured motor vehicle” does not include any vehicle or equipment:
* * *
h. for which the sum of the limits of liability under all bodily injury liability bonds or policies applicable at the time of the accident is equal to or greater than the coverage limit for Underinsured ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.