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Patterson v. Insurance

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 25, 2014

COLETON PATTERSON, Plaintiff/Counter-defendant,
v.
ALLIED PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE, Defendant/Counterclaimant, and JEREMY HUFF, and ELIZABETH HUFF, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the cross-motions for summary judgment filed by defendant/counterclaimant Allied Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Allied") (Doc. 19) and plaintiff/counter-defendant Coleton Patterson (Doc. 24). The parties have responded to the respective motions (Docs. 26 & 27).

I. Legal Standards

Summary judgment must be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). With respect to their cross-motions for summary judgment, Patterson and Allied agree as to the relevant facts, so the Court must decide whether either party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Both parties further appear to agree that Illinois law is the appropriate law in this case or, at least, that it will yield the same result as Missouri law, which could arguably apply.

This case involves the interpretation of an insurance policy. Under Illinois law, the interpretation of an insurance policy, even an ambiguous policy, is a question of law. River v. Commercial Life Ins. Co., 160 F.3d 1164, 1169 (7th Cir. 1998); Crum & Forster Managers Corp. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 620 N.E.2d 1073, 1077 (Ill. 1993). In interpreting a policy, the Court must attempt to effectuate the parties' intention as expressed by the policy, giving "due regard to the risk undertaken, the subject matter that is insured, and the purposes of the entire contract." River, 160 F.3d at 1169 (quotations omitted); accord Allen v. Transamerica Ins. Co., 128 F.3d 462, 466 (7th Cir. 1997); Crum & Forster, 620 N.E.2d at 1078. If the policy is unambiguous, the Court must construe it according to the plain and ordinary meaning of its terms. River, 160 F.3d at 1169; Allen, 128 F.3d at 466; Crum & Forster, 620 N.E.2d at 1078. On the other hand, if the policy is ambiguous, the Court must construe all ambiguities in favor of the insured and against the insurer, who drafted the policy. River, 160 F.3d at 1169; Allen, 128 F.3d at 466; Outboard Marine Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 607 N.E.2d 1204, 1212 (Ill. 1992). To determine if an ambiguity exists, the Court must ask whether the policy, taken as a whole and reading all parts in light of the other parts, is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation. River, 160 F.3d at 1169; Allen, 128 F.3d at 466; Outboard Marine, 607 N.E.2d at 1212. The parties' mere disagreement about the interpretation of a policy does not render it ambiguous. River, 160 F.3d at 1169. Missouri law is not substantially different. See Rodriguez v. General Acc. Ins. Co. of Am., 808 S.W.2d 379, 382 (Mo. 1991).

II. Facts

Allied issued automobile insurance policy number PPCM0019946712-3 ("Policy") to defendants Jeremy and Elizabeth Huff. The Policy was issued in Missouri and covered four vehicles. During the term of the Policy, Patterson was riding as a passenger in one of the cars covered by the Policy when it was hit by another car driven by Ryan Wachter, who is not a party to this case. Patterson was injured, and Wachter's insurer paid Patterson $50, 000 for bodily injury under Wachter's liability insurance policy. Patterson now seeks coverage under the Policy's underinsured motorists ("UIM") endorsement.

The UIM endorsement includes the following:

INSURING AGREEMENT
A. We will pay compensatory damages which an "insured" is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an "underinsured motor vehicle" because of "bodily injury":
1. Sustained by an "insured"; and
2. Caused by an accident.
The owner's or operator's liability for these damages must arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the "underinsured motor vehicle".
* * *
C. "Underinsured motor vehicle" means a land motor vehicle or trailer of any type to which a bodily injury liability bond or policy applies at the time of the accident but its limit for bodily injury liability ...

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