Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 133 560; Unpublished
Judges Doctoroff, Murphy, and Cavanagh; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Liability Exclusions Prohibiting Stacking of Coverages [§3131]
Private Contract (Meaning and Intent)
In this per curiam unpublished Opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and found plaintiff not entitled to stack additional residual liability coverage from a vehicle not involved in the motor vehicle accident.
In upholding the owned vehicle exclusion clause contained in the policy covering the non-involved vehicle, the Court of Appeals rejected the claimant's contention that the language of the owned vehicle exclusion was ambiguous and misleading as to its liability provisions.
In this case, Randall Johnson was driving a 1986 Dodge when he struck and killed Charles Walker. The Dodge was owned by Johnson and Victoria Brinker, jointly, and was insured under a policy issued by Auto Club in which Brinker was the named insured. Mr. Johnson, although not related to Brinker, was a permanent resident of her household. Brinker was also the named insured on a policy issued by defendant for a 1969 Plymouth owned by her. A consent judgment was entered in the amount of $60,000 and Auto Club paid the $20,000 liability limits on the Dodge vehicle involved in the accident. Auto Club refused to pay any additional limits available under the insurance policy on the Plymouth. The basis of Auto Club's refusal was language contained in the liability section of the policy which stated:
"We will pay damages for which any insured person is legally liable because of bodily injury or property damage arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use, including the loading or unloading of an insured car."
In arguing for coverage under the Plymouth policy, claimant alleged that the exclusion was ambiguous because the exclusion which referred to coverage for an "insured car" contains a separate definition of "insured car" located in a different part of the policy under definitions. The definition of an insured car is either a vehicle described in the declarations certificate of the policy or an "other car" which is any car not owned by the insured.
In rejecting the claimant's argument that this exclusion was ambiguous, the Court of Appeals held that the policy clearly provides coverage only to either the car listed on the declaration page of the policy, or "other cars" defined in the policy as other vehicles not owned by the named insured. Reading the policy, Brinker could not reasonably have expected that the Dodge Omni (the vehicle involved in the accident) was covered under the Plymouth policy. Therefore, the Court of Appeals held that neither the owned vehicle exclusion clause nor the policy is ambiguous and the wording of the definition section was sufficient to notify the insured as to exactly which type of cars were covered. The decision of the trial court permitting stacking of coverages was therefore reversed.