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No Stacking from ‘Computer Error’

Although plaintiff’s 2008-2009 auto liability policy omitted a declarations page with UM and UIM limits, that omission did not create an ambiguity which will allow plaintiff to stack insurance policies, says a Roanoke U.S. District Court.

Plaintiff Ronnie Dooley was injured in a motor vehicle accident in February 2009 with a driver who had liability limits of $100,000. Dooley and his wife obtained personal auto liability insurance with defendant Hartford with liability and uninsured and underinsured motorist limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. The Dooleys renewed their policy Nov. 1, 2004, through Nov. 1, 2006, with the same policy limits and added a third vehicle. They renewed their policy for each succeeding policy period through 2008-2009. The declarations page for the initial policy and each succeeding renewal, except the 2008-2009 renewal, continued to specify the same policy limits. However, while the declarations page for the 2008-2009 policy period specified those limits for liability coverage, it did not specify UM and UIM limits. Nor were UM or UIM limits specified elsewhere in the policy. The policy includes a liability limits anti-stacking provision, and using virtually identical language, a UM and UIM limits anti-stacking provision.

Plaintiff argues that, due to the resulting ambiguity in the policy, the decision in Va. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Williams, 278 Va. 75 (2009), permits him to stack UIM coverage for each of the three vehicles, producing $200,000 in UIM coverage ($300,000 less the other driver’s $100,000 liability limit).

The court rejects that argument because the court finds that here, Va. Code § 38.2-2206(A), which provides that a policy’s UM and UIM limits equal that policy’s liability limits unless explicitly rejected by the insured, properly supplies inadvertently omitted UIM limits.

In that important respect, the case before the court is quite unlike Williams, which involved an internal inconsistency –  conflicting limits of liability on the declarations page – that could not be harmonized by resorting to Virginia’s UM statute, which ordinarily is as much a part of the policy as if incorporated therein.

Summary judgment for the carrier.

Dooley v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. (Wilson) No. 7:11cv00149, June 22, 2012; USDC at Roanoke, Va. VLW 012-3-273, 10 pp.

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