United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
October 2013, Janet Northington was involved in a motor
vehicle accident and sustained bodily injuries with damages
exceeding $245, 000. The at-fault driver had a $100, 000
limit for liability under her automobile insurance policy,
and Northington recovered this amount from the driver's
insurer. Given that her damages exceeded the at-fault
driver's policy limit, Northington sought to recover
under the underinsured motorist (UIM) provision of her own
automobile policy issued by Secura Insurance, which had UIM
coverage up to $100, 000 for bodily injury per person. Secura
contends that the at-fault driver's vehicle does not meet
the policy definition of “underinsured motor
vehicle” because that vehicle's coverage was not
less than the limits of Secura's UIM coverage.
Northington argues that other policy provisions render the
UIM provision ambiguous.
filed this declaratory judgment action in diversity seeking a
declaration that it is not obligated to pay any amount to
Northington under the insurance policy. Northington filed a
counterclaim, alleging breach of contract and seeking a
declaration that Secura owes her the full amount of UIM
coverage under the policy, that is, $100, 000. She also
brings claims of vexatious refusal to pay, fraud, and unjust
sides move for summary judgment on the claims regarding UIM
coverage under the insurance policy. Because Northington is
not entitled to recover under the unambiguous UIM provision
of her policy, I will grant summary judgment to Secura on the
policy-coverage claims. I will also grant Secura's motion
to dismiss Northington's remaining claims.
determining whether to grant summary judgment, I must view
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,
the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations in its
pleadings but must, by affidavit or 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.
filing of cross motions for summary judgment does not
necessarily indicate that there is no dispute as to a
material fact, or have the effect of submitting the cause to
a plenary determination on the merits.” Wermager v.
Cormorant Twp. Bd., 716 F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir. 1983).
Instead, each summary judgment motion must be evaluated
separately on its own merits to determine whether a genuine
issue of material fact exists and whether the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Husinga v.
Federal-Mogul Ignition Co., 519 F.Supp.2d 929, 942 (S.D.
Before the Court on the Motions
October 2, 2013, Celia Lomax rear-ended Janet
Northington's vehicle while Northington was driving
northbound on Highway 47 in Franklin County, Missouri. This
impact caused Northington to cross over into oncoming traffic
and be struck a second time. As a result of the accident,
Northington sustained bodily injuries with damages exceeding
$245, 000. At the time of the accident, Lomax was insured by
an automobile insurance policy with applicable limits of
liability totaling $100, 000. Northington recovered the
policy limit - $100, 000 - from Lomax's insurer. At the
time of the accident, Northington was insured under Policy
Number PX 270-48-17 (the Policy), an automobile insurance
policy issued by Secura, which itself had a $100, 000 limit
for UIM coverage. Northington was driving a vehicle insured
under the Policy at the time of the accident.
relevant to this action, the Policy stated as follows:
PART C-2 UNDERINSURED MOTORISTS COVERAGE
A. 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 an 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.
ECF 1-1 at p. 57 (emphasis in original). The Policy defined
“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 an accident
but its limit for bodily injury liability is less than the
limit of liability for this coverage.” Id. at
p. 58. It is undisputed that the UIM limit in the Policy was
$100, 000. Accordingly, under the plain language of the
Policy, a vehicle is not “underinsured” if it is
covered by an insurance policy with a limit of $100, 000 or
provision of the Policy also had a “Limit of
LIMIT OF LIABILITY
A. The limit of liability shown in the
Declarations for each person for Underinsured Motorists
Coverage is our maximum limit of liability for all damages,
including damages for care, loss of services or 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 for
each accident for Underinsured Motorists Coverage is our
maximum limit of liability for all damages for bodily
injury resulting from any one accident.
This is most we will pay regardless of the ...