Holland v Citizens
Sarah Gordon and Tina Battle obtained a dismissal, with prejudice, on behalf of their clients, Citizens Insurance Company of America and Citizens Insurance Company of the Midwest, on a cause of action for uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits under a personal auto policy and uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits under a separate umbrella policy in a wrongful death action pending in the Wayne County Circuit Court. The cause of action arose out of a motor vehicle vs. motorcycle accident in which the owner and operator of the motorcycle died when struck by the defendant driver who turned left in front of the motorcycle. The potential exposure to their clients was 1.5 million dollars.
Ms. Gordon and Ms. Battle filed a Motion for Summary Disposition arguing that uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits were excluded under the personal auto policy because coverage was not provided to an insured who was occupying a motor vehicle owned by that insured which was not insured for coverage under the personal auto policy. The term motor vehicle was not defined within the UM/UIM portion of the policy and accordingly Defense counsel argued that the dictionary or common meaning of the term applied which included a motorcycle. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the policy was ambiguous because it contained definitions of a motor vehicle which excluded motorcycles in other portions of the policy, specifically in the Accidental Death portion of the Policy and the Personal Injury Protection portion of the Policy. The Honorable Annette J. Berry agreed with the argument that the policy was not ambiguous and when given its commonly used meaning, the term motor vehicle included a motorcycle. Accordingly, UIM benefits were excluded. Ms. Gordon and Ms. Battle also successfully argued that the umbrella policy excluded any claim for uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits unless a special endorsement was added to the policy.