Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 351876; Unpublished
Judges Kelly, Krause and Redford; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Interpretation of Insurance Contracts
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary disposition to Universal on the issue of whether plaintiff was an insured under Universal’s policy and affirmed the trial court’s denial of Home-Owners ’s motion to amend its pleadings to assert a cross claim against Universal for common-law indemnity. In reaching its holding, the Court found that the policy language of Universal unambiguously provided who was entitled to uninsured benefits, and that plaintiff was not among them. Because of this fact, the Court held that any amendment to the pleadings to permit Home-Owners to assert a cross-claim against Universal for common-law indemnity would have been futile.
This case arose from an automobile accident in which plaintiff was injured while driving a rental vehicle owned by Schaefer and Bierlein, Inc. (SBI) and insured by Universal while his vehicle was being repaired. The policy at issue’s declaration page provided that SBI was the named insured, with Randall, Kyle, Sue, and Craig Bierlein listed as “other insureds.” The policy also specifically stated that only Randall Bierlein and Craig Bierlein were listed for uninsured motorist coverage. Under a section entitled “Who Is an Insured,” Endorsement 203 stated, in relevant part:
If YOU are designated in the declaration as:
- An individual, then the following are INSURED:
- YOU and any FAMILY MEMBER
- Anyone else OCCUPYING a covered AUTO or a temporary substitute for a covered AUTO. The covered AUTO must be out of service because of its breakdown, repair, servicing, loss, or destruction.
Plaintiff originally commenced suit against Home-Owners but was permitted to file an amended complaint naming Universal as a defendant. Plaintiff alleged breach of contract on the ground that Universal had failed to pay uninsured motorist benefits to plaintiff following the accident. In response, Universal moved for summary disposition, contending that plaintiff was not an insured under Universal’s policy. The trial court agreed and granted Universal’s motion for summary disposition. Prior to the parties’ stipulation to dismiss plaintiffs’ claim against Home-Owners, Home-Owners filed a motion for leave to add a cross-claim against Universal for common-law indemnity. While Home-Owners did not dispute that it owed uninsured motorist benefits in excess of any benefit owed by Universal, it argued that its coverage was not primary. The trial court denied the motion.
On appeal, Home-Owners argued that “the trial court erred by granting Universal’s motion for summary disposition on the basis that Mr. Loiacano was not an insured under Universal’s policy.” Home-Owners further contended that “because Universal was the primary insurer responsible for paying uninsured motorist benefits, the trial court abused its discretion by denying its motion to amend the pleadings to assert a cross-claim against Universal for common-law indemnity.” Specifically, Home-Owners argued that “Mr. Loiacano [was] entitled to uninsured motorist benefits because he was not subject to the ‘exclusion’ within the declarations and that he was covered by the ‘Who Is An Insured’ language in Endorsement 2013 because he was ‘occupying’ a covered vehicle when he was injured.” The Court noted that the word “anyone” would ordinarily be all-inclusive, but that Endorsement 203 within Universal’s policy provided that “uninsured motorist coverage applied only to a named insured or other insured if there were specified in the declaration.” The Court held that, “[c]onsequently, it is inescapable that SBI purchased uninsured motorist coverage for Randall and Craig Bierlein only. We cannot consider the word ‘anyone’ out of its context. Therefore, as the trial court concluded . . . [t]he policy unambiguously provided who was entitled to uninsured motorist benefits, and Mr. Loiacano did not fall within the scope of covered individuals.” Accordingly, the Court held that “[b]ecause Mr. Loiacan was not entitled to receive uninsured motorist benefits under Universal’s policy, any amendment to the pleadings to permit Home-Owners to assert a cross-claim against Universal for common-law indemnity would have been futile.”