Ambiguity in car insurance policy favors insured, SC rules

Legal News Line Jan. 30, 2007, 9:29am

Missouri Supreme Court building

JEFFERSON CITY -- Injured drivers are entitled to sue their insurers for excess coverage if their policy has an "other insurance" clause, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled today in Tamara Seeck vs. GEICO General Insurance Co. (# SC7995). The case involved a woman injured in a car wreck who successfully claimed the maximum of $50,000 from the second driver's insurer, Farmer's Insurance Group. She sued her own insurer, Geico, after it refused her claim of a further $50,000 in "excess coverage" under its "other insurance" clause, which Seeck filed as an under-insured motorist. A trial court originally ruled summary judgement in GEICO's favor. But on appeal the Supreme Court today unanimously overturned that decision and remanded the case back to trial. The Court ruled that even where other parts of the policy appear to limit such coverage, the conflict "renders the policy ambiguous." GEICO had argued in its defense that provisions in the plaintiff's policy did not allow such excess coverage, an argument the trial court had concurred with. "Under settled Missouri law, this ambiguity must be resolved in Seeck's favor and in favor of coverage," wrote Justice Laura Denvir Stith in a 6-0 verdict. The court's determination of this revolved around its consideration of whether "an ordinary person of average understanding" would interpret the GEICO policy's other insurance clause to mean that they could claim from them. The Court determined that they would.

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