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.

Baumhoff v. Farmers Insurance Co.

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

July 13, 2018

DANIEL BAUMHOFF, Plaintiff,
v.
FARMERS INSURANCE COMPANY, and SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Farmers Insurance Company's ("Fanners") Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 17.) Plaintiff Daniel Baumhoff has filed a memorandum in opposition (Doc. 25), and Farmers replied (Doc. 27). Both parties have filed a statement of material facts.[1] (Docs. 19, 21.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 10, 2016, Plaintiff was driving a 2012 Nissan Titan pickup truck owned by his mother, Mary O'Brien. The truck was struck by a vehicle driven by Alexis Baker. Plaintiff sustained significant bodily injury. Baker was insured by Progressive Insurance, which paid to Plaintiff the $100, 000 limit for bodily injury in Baker's policy. O'Brien was insured by Defendant Safeco Insurance Company, which paid to Plaintiff the $50, 000 limit for underinsured motorist ("UIM") coverage in O'Brien's policy.[2] Plaintiff sought additional payment from Farmers, which had issued to him a policy that included $500, 000 in UIM coverage (the "Policy"). Farmers denied Plaintiffs claim, asserting that the Policy's UIM coverage excluded personal injury sustained by Plaintiff while he was occupying a vehicle owned and insured for UIM coverage by someone else. Plaintiff sued Farmers, arguing that Farmers vexatiously refused to pay his claim. Farmers answered, raised a counterclaim for declaratory judgment, and then filed this Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that the Policy's language unambiguously excludes Plaintiffs claim.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         "Summary judgment is proper where the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Davison v. City of Minneapolis, Minn., 490 F.3d 648, 654 (8th Cir. 2007); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "The basic inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Diesel Machinery, Inc. v. B.R. Lee Industries, Inc., 418 F.3d 820, 832 (8th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         As noted, the parties do not dispute the material facts: Plaintiff was injured while driving his mother's vehicle, which she had insured with a policy that included UIM coverage. The only dispute is whether the Policy covers Plaintiffs injuries. "State law governs the interpretation of insurance policies." Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh v. Terra Indus., Inc., 346 F.3d 1160, 1164 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting Capitol Indem. Corp. v. Haverfield, 218 F.3d 872, 875 (8th Cir. 2000)). "The interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law." Naeger v. Farmers Ins. Co., 436 S.W.3d 654, 659 (Mo.Ct.App. 2014) (citing McCormack Baron Mgt. Services, Inc. v. Am. Guarantee & Liab. Ins. Co., 989 S.W.2d 168, 171 (Mo. banc 1999)). "Unless the policy is ambiguous, it must be enforced as written." Id. (citing Capitol Indem. Corp. v. Callis, 963 S.W.2d 247, 249 (Mo.Ct.App. 1997)). A policy is ambiguous if its language is susceptible to two reasonable interpretations. CNHIndus. N.V. v. Reese, 138 S.Ct. 761, 765 (2018). The policy's language "must be interpreted in the context of the policy as a whole and should not be considered in isolation." Naeger, 436 S.W.3d at 660 (citing Long v. Shelter Ins. Companies, 351 S.W.3d 692, 696 (Mo.Ct.App. 2011)). Ambiguous language is construed against the drafter. Id. (citing Burns v. Smith, 303 S.W.3d 505, 509-10 (Mo. banc 2010). Farmers bears the burden of showing that its policy excludes coverage of Plaintiffs claim. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Farmers argues that two provisions preclude coverage, both listed under the UIM section of the policy. First, it cites the "other-insurance" provision, which reads: "[Farmers] will not provide insurance for a vehicle other than your insured car, unless the owner of that vehicle has no other insurance applicable to this part."" (Doc. 21-2 at 20 (emphasis added).) Plaintiff was injured while driving his mother's vehicle, which was covered by his mother's UIM insurance up to $50, 000.

         Plaintiff responds that the other-insurance provision is ambiguous because it does not define "other insurance applicable to this part." (Id.) He asserts that the language could mean primary insurance or UIM coverage and that the provision only mentions vehicle damage, not bodily injury. (Id.) Defendant's reference to the provision in a bodily injury case, Plaintiff argues, only adds to the ambiguity. (Id.)

         First of all, "[t]he failure of a policy to define a term does not, in and of itself, render it ambiguous." Naeger, 436 S.W.3d at 645 (quoting Trainwreck West Inc. v. Burlington Ins. Co., 235 S.W.3d 33, 40 (Mo. App. E.D. 2007)). Moreover, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment to the insurance company on a nearly identical other-insurance, provision in Naeger v. Farmers Ins. Co. In that case, the plaintiff was injured as a passenger in a car struck by an underinsured motorist. 436 S.W.3d at 657. She alleged damages of $700, 000. Id. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, which insured the underinsured motorist, settled with the plaintiff for $50, 000. Id. Allstate Insurance Company, which insured the driver of the car plaintiff was in when she was injured, paid her an additional $190, 000 pursuant to the driver's UIM policy. Id. Plaintiff then sought payment from her own insurer, pursuant to the UIM coverage in her personal policy. Id.

         The plaintiffs insurer denied the claim based on a non-owned auto exclusion that read: "We will not provide insurance for a vehicle other than your insured car .. . unless the owner of that vehicle has no other insurance applicable hereunder." Id. at 659 (emphasis deleted). The plaintiff argued that the policy did was not ambiguous because it did not define "other insurance applicable hereunder." Id. The Missouri Court of Appeals rejected that argument, finding that "the reasonable interpretation of the clause is that it refers to other UIM coverage, as the endorsement in which it is included pertains only to UIM coverage and its limitations and exclusions." Id.

         The Court concludes that Naeger compels the same holding here. Like in Naeger, the phrase "other insurance applicable to this part" is unambiguously included in "PART II -Uninsured Motorist Coverage (Including Underinsured Motorist Coverage)." (Doc. 21-2 at 18-19.) Because Part II "pertains only to UIM coverage and its limitations and exclusions" Naeger, 436 S.W.3d at 660, the reasonable interpretation is that "other insurance applicable to this part" means other UIM coverage. Because Plaintiff was injured while operating his mother's vehicle and because his mother had UIM insurance, the Court concludes that the Policy does not cover Plaintiffs injuries.

         Plaintiff asserts that the other-insurance provision applies only to property damage to a vehicle and therefore is inapplicable here. (Doc. 25 at 7.) The text of the provision states that Famers "will not provide insurance for a vehicle other than your insured car unless the owner of that vehicle has no other insurance applicable to this part." (Doc. 21-2 at 20.) Plaintiff argues that "insurance for a vehicle" means property damage and that therefore the provision does not affect the Policy's coverage of his bodily injuries. (Doc. 25 at 5-6.) ...


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.