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Insurance – Policy Coverage – UIM – ‘Anti-Stacking’ Clause – Consistent Limits

Plaintiff’s auto liability policy on his four vehicles with a UIM endorsement that limits UIM coverage to bodily injury limits regardless of “insureds, claims made or vehicles or premiums shown in the Declarations,” and $500,000 limits for “each person” listed on the declarations page, is not ambiguous and a Chesterfield Circuit Court says plaintiff may not stack the policies for $2 million in UIM coverage.

Plaintiff had auto liability insurance with Nationwide, naming him as the insured and providing liability coverage in connection with four vehicles. The declarations page refers to four separate premiums for uninsured motorist coverage, but each premium secures the same limit of liability – “$500,000 each person.”

The Nationwide policy also contains an “anti-stacking” clause in the section dealing with UIM. This clause details the limits of liability, including the limit of bodily injury liability, the limit of property damage liability and states this “is the most we will pay regardless of the number of: 1. Insureds; 2. Claims made; or 3. Vehicles or premiums shown in the Declarations.”

Plaintiff points to the Virginia rule that stacking of UIM coverage will be permitted unless clear and unambiguous language exists on the face of the policy to prevent coverage. He contends the decision in Va. Farm Bureau Co. v. Williams, 278 Va. 75 (2009), demonstrates there is still ambiguity in the policy despite the policy language here; and therefore, stacking is permissible and will afford plaintiff $2 million in UIM.

In this case, plaintiff has attempted to frame Nationwide’s UIM endorsement section in its policy as a mirror image of the UIM endorsement section in the Williams policy. Plaintiff claims the limits of liability section of Nationwide’s policy does not unequivocally state the “each person” limit of liability in a schedule as in Goodville Mut. Cas. Co. v. Borror, 221 Va. 967 (1981), but rather states the “each person” limit of liability can be found by referring to the declarations page. Plaintiff claims that unlike in Goodville and much like in Williams, there is neither a schedule within the UIM endorsement nor a limiting statement on the declarations page clarifying the limit of liability for “each person.” He maintains that a schedule or a limiting statement is necessary to explain that only one “each person” limit of liability applies even though there are multiple listed because of the number of vehicles covered by the policy. This court disagrees.

Plaintiff’s arguments are essentially the same as those advanced by the plaintiff in Lloyd v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Ins. Co., No. 1:10cv47 (E.D. Va. July 22, 2010) (applying Virginia law). The plaintiff in Lloyd argued that Williams set forth a more stringent rule that the “anti-stacking” clause and the schedule listing the UIM appear close in proximity to one another. This court agrees with the court in Lloyd that Williams does not hold the separation of these provisions creates an ambiguity as to stacking or that reference to a declarations page is dispositive of ambiguity.

With respect to plaintiff’s Nationwide policy here, application of the anti-stacking clause does not lead to an unclear result like it did in Williams. As other courts have previously indicated, Williams is a special case because there were inconsistent values on the declarations page. In this case, the phrase “each person” has a consistent value of $500,000 under the coverages listed for each of plaintiff’s four vehicles. There is no ambiguity and intra-policy stacking is prohibited.
Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment denied; defendant’s motion for summary judgment is granted.

Davis v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. (Burgess, J.) No. CL 10-555, Aug. 31, 2010; Chesterfield Cir.Ct.; William B. Kilduff for plaintiff; David W. Drash for defendant. VLW 010-8-168, 4 pp.

VLW 010-8-168

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