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LaChapell v Homeowners Ins Co; (COA - UNP; 5/24/2016; RB # 3538)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 326003; Unpublished
Judges Gleicher, Sawyer and M.J. Kelly; Unanimous, Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion 

Not Applicable

Interpretation of Insurance Contracts
Underinsured Motorist Coverage in General

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam Opinion involving a claim for underinsured motorist benefits after plaintiff and his wife were struck by a vehicle while crossing the street, the Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs’ claim for UIM coverage was properly dismissed because in order to collect benefits, plaintiffs had to be first-named insureds on the policy that was issued by defendant — and they were not.

Plaintiffs were hit by a vehicle while crossing a street. Plaintiff was seriously injured and his wife, Karin LaChapell, was killed. The driver had a no-fault policy with Progressive Insurance. Because plaintiff claimed the Progressive policy’s limits were less than the damage that he and his wife had sustained, plaintiff sought benefits from defendant Homeowners, which provided no-fault insurance to plaintiff’s employer, Finn Specialties, Inc. That policy covered a Silverado pickup owned by plaintiff’s employer and listed plaintiff as a scheduled driver. The Silverado, however, was not involved in the accident. Plaintiff claimed that §2(b)(1)(a) of his employer’s policy entitled him to UIM benefits. That section of the policy stated: “COVERAGE (b) If the first named insured in the Declarations is an individual, this coverage is extended as follows: (1) We will pay compensatory damages, including but not limited to loss of consortium, you are legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an underinsured automobile because of bodily injury you sustain: (a) when you are not occupying an automobile that is covered by SECTION II – LIABILITY COVERAGE of the policy ….” The policy also contained a “Broadened Coverage for Named Individuals – Drive Other Cars” endorsement, which provided coverage when the named insured was driving vehicles not covered by the policy. The endorsement indicated that “you” and “your” meant plaintiff and his wife. When Homeowners denied UIM coverage, plaintiff brought this action. Both parties moved for summary disposition. Homeowners argued it was not liable for UIM benefits because the broadened coverage endorsement did not make plaintiff or his wife first-named insureds, and the language of the policy indicated that Homeowners was only obligated to pay UIM benefits to an injured pedestrian if the pedestrian was a first-named insured. The trial court granted Homeowners’ motion for partial summary disposition, finding the endorsement did not alter the prerequisite that, to obtain UIM benefits, plaintiff had to be a first-named insured, and he was not.

The Court of Appeals affirmed. At issue in the case, the Court noted, was the policy provision that said UIM benefits were available to the insured stemming from accidents where the insured was not occupying the covered vehicle and where “the first named insured in the Declarations is an individual.” According to the Court, the first-named insured on the policy was Finn Specialties, not plaintiff or his wife. Therefore, UIM coverage did not apply because they were not the first-named insured, the Court concluded.

The Court of Appeals continued by examining whether UIM benefits were available under the broadened coverage endorsement. The Court pointed out that plaintiff still had to be the first-named insured for the endorsement to apply. The Court observed:

The first named insured, indeed the only named insured, in the declarations is Finn Specialties. The definition of ‘you’ found in the broadened coverage provision does not supplant this delineation. The endorsement merely applies the insurance policy to plaintiffs in situations when they drive other cars. Further, the UIM coverage provision does not provide damages to anyone that is injured while not occupying a covered vehicle — for instance if they are a pedestrian — unless they are the first named insured. … The only portion of the UIM coverage provision that would cover plaintiff and the decedent is § 2.a., which provides coverage to any person that suffers bodily injury while occupying a covered vehicle. However, they were not occupying the vehicle listed by the policy — the 2007 Silverado — or any other vehicle that the endorsement extended coverage to at the time of the accident.”

Based on the foregoing, the Court of Appeals concluded that, under the plain language of the policy, Homeowners was not required to pay UIM benefits for injuries sustained by plaintiff and his wife, and the trial court “correctly granted summary disposition to defendant on this issue.”


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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