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Carter v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

March 7, 2017

COREY CARTER, Respondent,
v.
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Honorable Gloria Clark Reno.

          ROY L. RICHTER, JUDGE.

         Shelter Mutual Insurance Company ("Shelter") appeals from the trial court's judgment in favor of Corey Carter ("Carter") in the amount of $100, 000 pursuant to the uninsured motor vehicle liability coverage of two vehicle insurance policies. We reverse and remand.

         I. Background

         On April 4, 2012, Carter was involved in a motor vehicle accident while operating a 2002 Chevrolet Impala ("Impala"). There are two insurance policies at issue: one policy covering the Impala and a second policy covering a 2006 Pontiac Torrent ("Torrent"). The Impala is titled solely in the name of Carter's mother, Pam Carter ("Mother"), and the Torrent is jointly titled in the name of Carter and Mother. Under both policies, Mother is the only name listed under the heading of "Named Insured" on the Auto Policy Declarations and Policy Schedule ("Declarations Page"). However, Mother and Carter are both listed under the "Additional Listed Insured" heading on each policy.

         Both policies provide uninsured motorist coverage depending on the category of the insured. Category A provides $50, 000 for insureds defined as "You, " "Relatives, " and "Additional Listed Insured, " while Category B provides $25, 000 for drivers of the policy's described vehicle, not included in Category A, to satisfy the minimum limit of uninsured motorist coverage.

         The trial court entered judgment in favor of Carter providing coverage of $50, 000 under each policy for a total coverage of $100, 000. This appeal follows.

         II. Discussion

         Shelter's sole point on appeal claims that the trial court erred in entering judgment in favor of Carter for $100, 000 because Carter is only entitled to $25, 000 in uninsured motor vehicle liability coverage in that Carter's absence from the Name Insured section of the Declarations Page and ownership of another vehicle only qualifies as a Category B insured under the Impala policy and does not qualify as a Category A or Category B insured under the Torrent policy.

         A. Standard of Review

         The interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo. Dutton v. Am. Fam. Mut. Ins. Co., 454 S.W.3d 319, 322 (Mo. banc 2015) (citing Rice v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co., 301 S.W.3d 43, 46 (Mo. banc 2009)). When reviewing de novo, no deference is given to the trial court's decision. Boulevard Inv. Co. v. Capitol Indemn. Corp., 27 S.W.3d 856, 858 (Mo. App. E.D. 2000).

         B. Policy Coverage

         Shelter argues that the trial court erred in entering judgment in favor of Carter for the amount of $100, 000 because Carter does not qualify as an insured motorist under the 2002 Impala and 2006 Torrent insurance policies. Shelter contends that because Carter is not listed as a Named Insured and owns another vehicle, he did not qualify as a Category A insured under the Impala policy. Additionally, Shelter argues that Carter is not covered by the Torrent policy because the accident occurred while driving the Impala, which was not the policy's "described auto." We agree in part.

         When interpreting an insurance policy, the language should be given its plain meaning. Melton v. Country Mut. Ins. Co., 75 S.W.3d 321, 324 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002). Although policies contain both grants of coverage and exclusions, we must "reconcile conflicting clauses in a policy so far as their language reasonably permits." Taylor v. Owners Ins. Co., 499 S.W.3d 351, 357 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016) (quoting Todd v. Missouri United Sch. Ins. Council, 223 S.W.3d 156, 162-63 (Mo. banc 2007)). However, if the language of the policy is ambiguous, we resolve that ambiguity against the insurer. Allen v. Cont'l W. Ins. Co., 436 S.W.3d 548, 554 (Mo. banc 2014). Further, we construe the terms of an insurance policy by applying "the meaning which would be attached by an ordinary person of average understanding . . . purchasing insurance." Yager v. Shelter Gen. Ins. Co., 460 S.W.3d 68, 71 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). Language is ambiguous if it is reasonably open to different constructions. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ragsdale, 213 S.W.3d 51, 55 (Mo. App. W.D. 2006). An insurance policy must be enforced according to its ...


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