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State Auto v Cates; (COA-UNP, 5/24/1989; RB #1491)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 102408; Unpublished  
Judges Reilly, Gribbs, and Taylor; Unanimous; Per Curiam 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  Not Applicable; Link to Opinion alt  

Not Applicable

Private Contract (Meaning and Intent) 
Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Underinsured Motorist Coverage in General 
Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Setoffs Applicable to Underinsured Motorist Cases  

In this unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals found an ambiguity in the definition of "underinsured motor vehicle" for purposes of determining the tortfeasor's "limit for bodily injury liability" in cases involving multiple tort claimants. Young Miss Cates was one of four occupants in a vehicle, all four of whom were severely injured in a motor vehicle accident. The tortfeasor had liability coverage of $100,000/$200,000. Under an agreement reached between them, each of the four injured parties took $50,000 of the tortfeasor's $200,000 total coverage. At the time of the loss, Miss Cates resided with her parents who had in effect a policy of insurance with State Auto Mutual, which contained $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. The policy language provided that the coverage was to be reduced by coverage "otherwise available" from the tortfeasor. State Auto Mutual took the position that because the per person liability limit of the tortfeasor's policy was $100,000, that was the amount that was "available" from the tortfeasor, and thus, there was nothing owing under the underinsured motorist coverage. Miss Cates took the position that because of the multiple claims against the tortfeasor's policy, only $50,000 was "available" to her. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the term "available" was ambiguous; and therefore, State Auto Mutual was obligated to pay Miss Cates $50,000 in underinsured motorist benefits out of its $100,000 policy. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 

[Author's Comment: This case was unintentionally omitted from previous supplements and is added for completeness.]  

Michigan auto accident attorney Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit

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