Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Hon. Joan L.
G. DOWD, JR., JUDGE
Casualty Company appeals from the summary judgment declaring
that the underinsured motorist coverage limits on three
vehicles in a single policy owned by Aaron Clampitt could be
stacked. We reverse.
was injured in a car accident with another motorist and
received $25, 000 from that motorist's insurance company.
That amount did not cover Clampitt's damages, so he made
a claim for underinsured motorist ("UIM") coverage
under the policy he had with Geico, under which three of
Clamplitt's vehicles were insured. Geico paid Clampitt
$50, 000 in accord with the stated per person policy limit
for UIM coverage on one vehicle, and the parties agreed to
litigate whether additional UIM coverage could be
"stacked." On joint stipulated facts and
cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court entered
judgment declaring that the UIM coverages could be stacked.
This appeal follows. We review the propriety of
this summary judgment and the interpretation of this
insurance policy de novo. See ITT Commercial Finance
Corporation v. Mid-America Marine Supply Corporation,
854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993).
declarations page of this policy describes UIM coverage and
the premiums paid for that coverage as follows:
Limits and/or Deductibles
Underinsured Motorist Each Person/Each Occurrence
$50, 000/$100, 000
undisputed that in the body of the policy, UIM coverage is
subject to limitations that prohibit stacking. In relevant
part, the policy states that the limits of liability shown on
the declarations page apply "regardless of the number of
insured autos involved in the accident . . . vehicles or
premiums shown in the declarations or premiums paid;"
the per person limit of liability in the declaration "is
the limit of our liability for all damages . . . sustained by
one person as the result of one accident;" and
"when coverage is afforded to two or more autos, the
limits of liability shall apply separately to each auto as
stated in the declarations but shall not exceed the highest
limits of liability applicable to one auto."
does not argue that these "anti-stacking
provisions" are themselves ambiguous or unenforceable.
In fact, he concedes that when those provisions are read
alone, they unambiguously prohibit stacking the UIM
coverages. See generally Rodriguez v. General Accident
Insurance Company of America, 808 S.W.2d 379,
383 (Mo. banc. 1991) (finding similar language clearly and
unambiguously prohibited stacking). Clampitt contends,
however, that when these provisions are read in conjunction
with the declarations page an ambiguity arises. Specifically,
he asserts that because the declarations page shows that he
paid a separate premiums for UIM coverage on each of his
three vehicles, the declarations page "clearly
provides" that the UIM coverages can be stacked. He
claims the declarations page promises three UIM coverages and
then the anti-stacking provisions take two of those coverages
away. We disagree.
well-settled that where one section of an insurance policy
promises coverage and another takes it away, the contract is
ambiguous and the ambiguity must be resolved in favor of the
insured. See Ritchie v. Allied Property &
Casualty Insurance Company, 307 S.W.3d 132, 140- 41 (Mo.
banc 2009). But we cannot "create an ambiguity by
reading only a part of the policy and claiming that, read in
isolation, that portion of the policy suggests a level of
coverage greater than the policy actually provides when read
as a whole." Owners Insurance Company v. Craig,
514 S.W.3d 614, 617 (Mo. banc 2017). Rather, we must read the
policy as a whole to determine if there is an ambiguity.
See generally Dutton v. American Family Mutual Insurance
Company, 454 S.W.3d 319, 324 (Mo. banc 2015).
evaluating the policy as a whole, we must also follow the
Supreme Court's repeated dictate that declarations pages
"do not grant any coverage" but "are
introductory only and subject to refinement and definition in
the body of the policy." Owners, 514 S.W.3d at
617 (citing Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mutual Insurance
Company, 439 S.W.3d 215, 221 (Mo. banc 2014) and Peters v.
Farmers Insurance Company, 726 S.W.2d 749, 751 (Mo. banc
1987)). A declarations page "states the policy's
essential terms in an abbreviated form, and when the policy
is read as a whole, it is clear that a reader must look
elsewhere to determine the scope of coverage."
Floyd-Tunnell, 439 S.W.3d at 221. Following this
precedent, our courts have held that since the declarations
page cannot grant coverage, it cannot be used to argue that
the insurer has promised something to the insured in the
declarations page that is then later taken away by the more
complete policy terms. Yager v. Shelter General Insurance
Company, 460 S.W.3d 68 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). In
Yager, the insured argued that the declarations page
promised coverage for accidents involving "non-owned
autos" and did not indicate that a later definition of
that term would exclude certain autos from that coverage.
Id. at 75. The court found that one of the
"critical flaws" in this argument was that, under
Floyd-Tunnell, the insured "is simply mistaken
that the coverage summary provided on a policy's
declarations page can create an ambiguity when construed in
connection with the policy's actual terms."
Id. Thus, the first problem with Clampitt's
argument is that he simply cannot rely on the declarations
page to demonstrate that he was promised or granted the right
to stack his UIM coverages.
regardless of how much emphasis we give this declarations
page, it is completely silent on the issue of stacking. It
does not say that the UIM coverages can or cannot be stacked.
Stacking is not even mentioned, much less promised. Nor does
the fact that the declarations page shows UIM coverage for
each of his three separately listed vehicles, and does not
expressly prohibit stacking those three coverages, reasonably
lead to the conclusion that they can be stacked. That very
argument has already been rejected under Missouri law. In
Midwestern Indemnity Company v. Brooks, the
declarations page listed the limits of liability for UIM
coverages on five separate vehicles, on which five separate
premiums had been paid. 770 F.3d 540, 543 (8th Cir. 2015). In
the body of the policy, stacking of those limits of liability
was unambiguously prohibited by language similar to the
language in Clamplitt's policy; specifically, it stated
that the limits shown on the declarations page were the most
the insurance company would pay "regardless of the
number of . . . vehicles or premiums shown" on that
page. Id. at 545. The insured claimed, however, that
because the declarations page showed premiums paid for five
vehicles, they were promised a stack of five UIM coverages.
Id. The Eighth Circuit, applying Missouri law,
disagreed and found that the declarations page gave
"readers no hint whether the indicated limits can be
combined" and could not reasonably be read to contradict
the anti-stacking mandate elsewhere in the policy.
Id. at 546-47. The Court found that the listing of
multiple vehicles and multiple premiums simply indicates
which cars are insured and is "not enough, in view of
the clear [anti-stacking] provision, to create an
ambiguity." Id. at 546. Similarly, in
Staufenbiel v. Amica Mutual Insurance Company, the
court concluded that a chart on a declarations page listing
multiple covered vehicles-like the one on Clampitt's
declarations page-did not address stacking or contradict the
anti-stacking provision: "a reasonable layperson would
understand the table to indicate that while driving one of
the listed vehicles, the individual was covered by the
underinsured motorist coverage." 2015 WL 1456987, at *4
(E.D. Mo. Mar. 30, 2015) (applying Missouri law); see
also Hall v. Allstate Insurance Company, 407 S.W.3d 603,
610-11 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012) (fact that three vehicles were
listed on the declarations page coupled with other general
language in policy-all of which was silent on stacking-could
not be read as an express promise of stacking, especially
where stacking expressly and unambiguously prohibited
elsewhere in policy).
the fact that the declarations page did not expressly
prohibit stacking does not create an ambiguity. "In
Missouri, a policy is not ambiguous just because its broad
statement of coverage [in the declarations page] is later
cabined by policy definitions or exclusions."
Brooks, 770 F.3d at 546 (citing Floyd-Tunnell,
supra). As another court put it, the mere fact that
a declarations page does not expressly contain anti-stacking
language is "unremarkable" and does not create an
ambiguity. Estate of Hughes v. State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Company, 485 S.W.3d 357, 362-63 at
n.4 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016) (citing Floyd-Tunnell,
supra). Again, this is because a declarations page
is brief by design and does not contain the vast majority of
the policy's limitations. See id.; see also
Yager, 460 S.W.3d at 75 (finding nothing on declarations
page that would alert reader that the policy provides any
coverage for non-owned autos and failing to see how a
"reasonable insured reviewing the declarations
pages" would conclude that it did).
to see how a reasonable insured could draw any conclusions
about whether the UIM coverages in this case could be stacked
based on what appears on the face of this declarations page
alone. Only further reading of the whole policy will answer
that question about the scope of coverage. Thus, contrary to
Clamplitt's contentions, this is simply not a
"promise, then take away" case. The summary of
coverage on the declarations page promised nothing about
stacking, and the actual terms of the policy unambiguously
prohibited stacking. Geico could not take away what it never
promised. See Kennedy v. Safeco Insurance Company of
Illinois, 413 S.W.3d 14, 18 (Mo. App. S.D. 2013)
(finding no ambiguity where stacking was not promised or even
suggested in "other insurance" provision and was
plainly and repeatedly disclaimed elsewhere.)
cases cited by Clampitt in support of his position that an
ambiguity can arise based on the declarations page are all
distinguishable because none of them are stacking cases.
Rather, each dealt with whether the UIM coverage was
"gap, " in which case the amount the insurer pays
is set off by what the tortfeasor paid (thus, the insurer
never pays the UIM limit of liability shown on the
declarations page) or "excess, " in which case the
amount the insurer pays is in addition to what the tortfeasor
paid. See Miller v. Ho Kun Yun,400 S.W.3d 779 (Mo.
App. W.D. 2013) (finding that interplay between policy
language saying UIM is gap and the stated limits on the
declarations page created confusion and ambiguity);
Simmons v. Farmers Insurance Company,479 S.W.3d 671
(Mo. App. E.D. 2015) (finding that nothing on declarations
page indicated coverage was merely gap and thus conflicted
with policy provision defining UIM coverage as gap);
Nationwide Insurance Company of America v. Thomas,
487 S.W.3d 9, 14 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016) (finding ambiguity
where declarations page was contradicted by other policy
provisions regarding whether UIM coverage gap or excess).
These cases involve totally different policy provisions and
are not applicable in the stacking context. See Estate of
Hughes, 485 S.W.3d at 363, n.3 (distinguishing
non-stacking cases for same reason). Our courts have warned
of the risk of focusing too much on case law over policy
language and have cautioned that other decisions "are
not dispositive in the absence of identical policy
language." Kennedy, 413 S.W.3d at 17. More
important than the factual differences in these cases is ...