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Insurance Coverage: Court finds insurance company’s underinsured motorist provision applicable even though collision did not occur in the policy’s covered auto

The plaintiffs commenced this action seeking underinsured motorist coverage benefits from four insurers, including the defendant, Ohio Casualty Insurance Company. The plaintiff alleges that he was operating a motor vehicle insured by Markel Insurance Company on Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania when the negligence of an underinsured tortfeasor caused an accident in which the plaintiff sustained injuries. The second plaintiff, a passenger in the vehicle, alleges to have sustained injuries as well. The plaintiffs allege that they have exhausted the tortfeasor’s automobile insurance policy and the underinsured motorist coverage available under the Markel Insurance Company policy.

The plaintiffs then sued Ohio Casualty in six counts, two seeking underinsured motorist coverage, one count alleging bad faith, as to each plaintiff, and one count alleging a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act/Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act, as to each plaintiff. Ohio Casualty now moves for summary judgment. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was operating a 1985 Mack Truck. Ohio Casualty issued a policy referenced as a “Business Automobile” policy to the plaintiff wherein he is listed as the sole named insured.

The covered vehicle listed in the Ohio Casualty policy is a 2003 Ford F550SD. On page three, and titled Item Two: Schedule of Coverages and Covered Autos, provides “Each of these coverages will apply only to those autos shown as covered autos. Autos are shown as covered autos for a particular coverage by the entry of one or more of the symbols from the COVERED AUTO Section of the Business Auto Coverage Form next to the name of the coverage.” The underinsured motorist coverage section on page three states, “Limit $1,000,000 each accident … covered auto symbols 07.” The Business Auto Coverage Form section, states the following: “Item Two of the Declarations shows the autos that are covered autos for each of your coverages. The following numerical symbols describe the autos that may be covered autos.

The symbols entered next to a coverage on the Declarations designate the only autos that are covered autos.” What followed was a chart stating in pertinent part, “7, Specifically Described Autos Only those autos described in Item Three of Declarations for which a premium charge is shown (and for Liability Coverage any trailers you don’t own while attached to any power unit described in Item Three).” Ohio Casualty moves for summary judgment stating that “the underinsured motorist benefits of its policy sought by the plaintiffs expressly apply only for the insured auto, and the subject accident was unrelated to the one specifically identified auto to which the underinsured motorist coverage applies” and the policy does not afford coverage to the 1985 Mack Truck the plaintiff was operating at the time of the accident.

The plaintiffs counter that they are insured and covered under the plain language of the underinsured provision in the policy. The Connecticut Supreme Court has repeatedly held that uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is person oriented, not vehicle oriented and applies wherever a person may be. Nevertheless, Ohio Casualty moves for summary judgment arguing that this mandate does not apply here because the policy at issue is a business policy, not a personal policy. The court explains that unlike the cases cited by the defendant to support its argument, Ohio Casualty issued the policy to the plaintiff, an individual, and insured is defined as “the named insured and any family member.” After further reviewing the policy and case law relied on by the defendant, the court states that to construe the underinsured coverage as applying to the plaintiff only if he was occupying the covered auto would render paragraphs (B)(1)(a) and (b) from the underinsured motorist coverage section meaningless. If a named insured was only covered while he was occupying a covered auto, there would be no need for the two separate provisions which currently exist. For these reasons, the court denies Ohio Casualty’s motion for summary judgment. Grandpre v. Am. Mod. Home Ins. Co., No. LLI-CV-226030059-S, 2023 WL 4573052 (Conn. Super. Ct. July 10, 2023)