INSURANCE: Whether accident vehicle was “temporary substitute” for insured vehicle in shop irrelevant to whether insured was occupying covered auto as defined by UIM in light of disputed claim that he told agent to add the accident vehicle to the policy… Christensen.
Calvin Stucky was a named insured under a North Pacific commercial auto policy which included UIM. On 2/20/09 he took his primary ranch vehicle, a red Chevy truck, to Deer Lodge for repairs. It is not clear whether this truck was insured under the policy. It remained in the shop throughout the summer. On 5/27 he purchased a 1980 Ford truck “to fill a need that was previously met by the red truck.” Stuckys claim that he told North Pacific’s agent Pat Greany to add the Ford to the policy; North Pacific disputes this. On 8/12/09, while driving the Ford, he was in a head-on with Seth Schmautz and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. His damages allegedly exceeded the limits of Schmautz’s State Farm policy. Stucky made a claim for UIM under the North Pacific policy. North Pacific seeks a declaration that there is no coverage for his claim for UIM. Stucky’s wife and 2 daughters were added as UIM claimants in 9/12. Stuckys raised as an affirmative defense in their answer and counterclaim in this declaratory action that the Ford was a “temporary replacement vehicle” for the Chevy that was being repaired. North Pacific asserts that whether or not the Ford is a temporary substitute is irrelevant to whether it must provide UIM to Stuckys. Stuckys contend that the policy is ambiguous as to whether a Named Insured is entitled to UIM if he is in a temporary substitute vehicle at the time damages are incurred by an underinsured motorist, and that this ambiguity must be construed in favor of coverage. North Pacific requests summary judgment on Stuckys’ temporary replacement vehicle defenses.
A Named Insured or any family member need not worry whether he was occupying a covered auto, a temporary substitute auto, or no auto at all when he incurred the damages. If all other requirements are met, the Named Insured must only concern himself with whether or not he was occupying or struck by an owned vehicle that was not a covered auto at the time the damages were incurred. The policy unambiguously provides UIM for a Named Insured or any family member who is occupying or struck by any vehicle, except a vehicle that the Named Insured or family member owned without coverage.
There is no dispute that Stucky sustained damages as a result of “bodily injury” caused by an “accident” arising from Schmautz’s use of an “underinsured motor vehicle,” that Stucky was the only one “occupying” the Ford at the time, and that he was an “insured.” Indeed, he was a “Named Insured.” Thus he is entitled to UIM so long as he was not occupying “any vehicle owned by [Stucky] that [was] not a covered `auto’ for Underinsured Motorists Coverage.” Under this broad coverage, and as a Named Insured, it makes no difference whether he was occupying a temporary substitute vehicle when he incurred damages 8/12/09. The only relevant question as to the vehicle he was occupying at the time of the collision is whether it was an auto that he owned that was not covered. There are disputed facts as to whether the Ford should have been covered per his alleged instructions to Greany. However, any dispute as to whether it was a temporary substitute vehicle is irrelevant and will not affect the outcome of the suit.
Summary judgment for North Pacific as to Stuckys’ temporary substitute vehicle defenses.
North Pacific Ins. v. Stucky, 41 MFR 200, 12/5/13.
John Bohyer & Jesse Beaudette (Bohyer, Erickson, Beaudette & Tranel), Missoula, for North Pacific; Lori Harshbarger (JD Law Firm), Whitehall, for Stuckys.
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