Favorable Summary Judgment Obtained for Insurer on Underinsured Motorist ClaimFebruary 14, 2023
Attorneys Debbie Etlinger, Erin Canalia, and Lauren Astone won a Summary Judgment Motion on behalf of their insurance company client in an underinsured motorist case. In Grandpre v. American Modern Home Ins. Co., the Court granted summary judgment in favor of American Modern as to the Plaintiffs’ underinsured motorist claim against America Modern. American Modern had issued a collectors’ vehicle policy of insurance to the Plaintiff which limited underinsured motorist coverage to accidents involving the vehicle covered by the American Modern Policy. It was undisputed that the accident at issue, for which the Plaintiffs sought underinsured motorist coverage under the American Modern Policy, did not involve the vehicle covered by the American Modern Policy.
The Plaintiffs argued this limitation in coverage was not enforceable because it was void as against public policy and because the American Modern policy was ambiguous. In granting summary judgment in favor of America Modern, the Court rejected both of Plaintiffs’ arguments. Relying upon the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Gombard v. Zurich Ins., 279 Conn. 808 (2006) the Court found that limiting underinsured motorist coverage to the insured vehicle in a specialty policy, such as the American Modern Policy, did not violate public policy because such policies were issued to cover antique vehicles for which reduced premiums were charged given the limited use of these vehicles. The Court also rejected the Plaintiffs’ argument that the American Modern Policy was ambiguous. Plaintiffs so argued based upon two policy provisions: the important notice to policyholders about the increase in statutory minimum limits of underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage and the Policy’s other insurance clause. The Court rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that this notice created an ambiguity which operated to provide underinsured coverage for a person injured while occupying a non-covered vehicle. It also rejected that the policy’s other insurance clause rendered the Policy ambiguous. It reasoned the Policy definition of insured included family members of the policyholder and that therefore there were circumstances where a person riding in the vehicle covered under the American Modern policy would be afforded uninsured/underinsured coverage under the American Modern policy and through their own policy or family policies.