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Lawson v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

August 29, 2017

RICHARD LAWSON, Respondent,
v.
PROGRESSIVE CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis 1522-CC11135 Honorable Joan L. Moriarty

          ROBERT M. CLAYTON III, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Progressive Casualty Insurance Company ("Appellant") appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Richard Lawson ("Respondent") on Respondent's action seeking compensatory damages under an underinsured motorist ("UIM") policy issued by Appellant. We reverse and remand.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Undisputed Facts Giving Rise to this Appeal

         While the parties dispute the interpretation of the relevant insurance policy, they do not dispute the underlying facts, which are as follows. On August 23, 2013, Respondent was a passenger in the vehicle owned and operated by his daughter, Nicole Lawson.[1] The vehicle occupied by Nicole and Respondent was rear-ended by Sophie Rehagen, who was at fault in the collision. Respondent suffered permanent and significant injuries; it was stipulated that his damages exceeded $150, 000.

         At the time of the collision, Rehagen was insured under an automobile liability policy, which provided bodily injury coverage with a limit of liability of $100, 000 per person. Additionally, the vehicle owned and operated by Nicole was insured under a personal automobile policy issued by Appellant to Nicole ("the Progressive policy" or "the Policy"). The Policy's effective dates were from March 27 through September 27, 2013; the parties stipulated the Policy was in full force and effect at the time of the collision. The parties also stipulated that Nicole had paid all premiums due on the Policy, and Respondent was an insured person under the Policy.

         The declarations page of the Progressive policy contained an Outline of Coverage, which listed the Policy's limits of liability. Just above the list of coverage limits, the declarations page contained the following signal: "All Limits listed below are subject to all terms, conditions, exclusions and applicable reductions described in the policy." The Policy included an endorsement for Missouri UIM coverage, which provided coverage with limits of $50, 000 per person and $100, 000 per accident. The UIM endorsement states:

If you pay the premium for this coverage, we 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 . . ..

         (emphasis partially omitted). The Policy defines "underinsured motor vehicle" as follows:

"Underinsured motor vehicle" means a land motor vehicle or trailer of any type 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 on 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 bonds or policies applicable at the time of the accident is equal to or greater than the coverage limit of Underinsured ...

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