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Danner v. Safeco Insurance Co. of Illinois

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

May 24, 2019

JAMES DANNER, Plaintiff,
v.
SAFECO INS. CO. OF ILLINOIS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RODNEY W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Safeco insured two automobiles (a Lexus and a Ford Escape) for plaintiff James Danner and his wife. The policy included underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. On November 26, 2016, James Danner was driving the Ford Escape when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Marilyn Jackson. He suffered substantial injuries. Jackson, the at-fault driver, had an automobile insurance policy with a policy limit of $100, 000, and her insurance company settled with Danner for the full amount.

         Danner now seeks to recover additional amounts from Safeco under the UIM provision of his own insurance policy. He brings claims for breach of contract and vexatious refusal to pay. Before me now is Safeco's motion for partial summary judgment. Because Danner is not entitled to “stack” the UIM coverage for both vehicles under the unambiguous language of his insurance policy, Safeco is entitled to partial summary judgment on the issue of stacking.

         Standards Governing Summary Judgment

         In determining whether to grant summary judgment, the court views the facts - and any inferences from those facts - in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing that (1) it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and (2) there are no genuine issues of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the movant has met this burden, however, the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations in its pleadings but must, by affidavit and other evidence, set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1), (e). Where a factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.

         Relevant, Undisputed Background Facts

         Safeco issued a personal automobile policy to Danner for coverage of a 2011 Lexus RX 350 and a 2011 Ford Escape (Insurance Policy Number Z4622739) with effective dates of May 1, 2016 through May 1, 2017. The policy has UIM coverage limits of $100, 000 for “each person” and $300, 000 for “each accident.” The policy states as follows:

We will pay compensatory damages which an insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an underinsured motor vehicle because of bodily injury: 1. sustained by that insured; and 2. Caused by an accident. The owner's or operator's liability for these damages must arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the underinsured motor vehicle.

[Doc. #4-1 at 49] (emphasis in original). The policy defines “underinsured motor vehicle” as “a land motor vehicle or trailer of any type to which a bodily injury liability bond or policy applies at the time of the accident but the amount paid for bodily injury is not enough to pay the full amount the insured is legally entitled to recover as damages.” [Doc. # 4-1 at 50]. The policy contains the following Two or More Autos Insured provision:

If this policy insures two or more autos or if any other auto insurance policy issued to you by us applies to the same accident, the maximum limit of our liability shall not exceed the highest limit applicable to any one auto. In no event shall the limit of liability of two or more motor vehicles or two or more policies be added together, combined, or stacked to determine the limit of insurance coverage available to you or any insured.

[Doc. # 4-1 at 49].

         The “Limits of Liability” provision states as follows:

A. The limit of liability shown in the Declarations for “each person” for Underinsured Motorist Coverage is our maximum limit of liability for all damages, including damages for care, loss of services or death (including loss of consortium and wrongful death), arising out of bodily injury sustained by any one person in any one accident.
Subject to this limit for “each person, ” the limit of liability shown in the Declarations page for “each accident” for Underinsured Motorists Coverage is our maximum limit of liability for all damages ...

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