Dullenty v. Rocky Mountain Fire and Cas. Co., 15889
|04 June 1986
|721 P.2d 198,111 Idaho 98
|Donald L. DULLENTY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ROCKY MOUNTAIN FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant-Respondent.
|Idaho Supreme Court
Michael J. Verbillis, Coeur d'Alene, attorney for plaintiff-appellant.
Charles W. Hosack, Coeur d'Alene, for defendant-respondent.
Kenneth B. Howard, Jr., Coeur d'Alene, for amicus curiae Idaho Trial Lawyers Assn.
M. Allyn Dingel, Jr. and Lawrence G. Sirhall, Jr. (argued), Boise, for amicus curiae State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.
This is a review of a decision of the Court of Appeals which reversed a summary judgment granted by the district court against plaintiff-appellant Dullenty. Dullenty had brought an action against his insurance carrier under the provisions of an automobile policy relating to uninsured motorist coverage. We reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the summary judgment granted by the district court.
The facts are stipulated and we are presented solely with a question of law. Dullenty owned three motor vehicles, a 1966 International truck, a 1974 Chevrolet Blazer, and a 1979 Subaru. Only the International truck was insured by respondent Rocky Mountain Fire and Casualty Company. The Blazer and the Subaru were insured by United Pacific Reliance Insurance Company. The automobile liability policy issued by Rocky Mountain Fire and Casualty Company contained an uninsured motorist coverage supplement. The automobile liability policy covering the Blazer and the Subaru issued by United Pacific Reliance Insurance Company also contained uninsured motorist coverage.
While Dullenty was operating the Chevrolet Blazer he was injured in a collision with an automobile owned and operated by an uninsured motorist. Dullenty filed a claim with Rocky Mountain, asserting benefits under the uninsured motorist supplement to the policy issued by Rocky Mountain. Based on exclusionary language contained in the policy, Rocky Mountain denied Dullenty's claim. Dullenty then filed suit in district court. The district court held that the exclusion was unambiguous and entered summary judgment against Dullenty.
That decision was appealed to the Idaho Court of Appeals who reversed, holding that the exclusionary language relied on by Rocky Mountain violated public policy. This Court granted a review of the decision of the Court of Appeals. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company was granted leave to appear amicus curiae. The sole question presented is whether as held by the Court of Appeals, the specific exclusion relied upon by Rocky Mountain which denies coverage in these circumstances, is void as against public policy. We hold the exclusionary language of the policy is not inconsistent with public policy, and hence reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.
The district court found that the language of the Rocky Mountain policy was clear and unambiguous and that no coverage was afforded thereunder to Dullenty under the instant circumstances. We agree. In that portion of the policy dealing with uninsured motorist coverage, a number of exclusions appear, one of which provides:
"This supplement [uninsured motorist coverage] does not apply:
"(c) to any other vehicle or automobile owned by or furnished for regular use to the named insured and while resident of the same household, his spouse and relatives of either...."
We affirm the decision of the district court that such language excludes uninsured motorist coverage when Dullenty is injured while occupying a vehicle owned by or furnished for the regular use of Dullenty, but which is not described in the declaration section of the policy. It is undisputed that the Chevrolet Blazer Dullenty was driving at the time of the accident in question was not described in the declaration section of the Rocky Mountain policy, and was owned by Dullenty. Under the somewhat inartfully drawn language of the policy, it is arguable that Dullenty was insured against damage caused by an uninsured motorist while he, Dullenty, was an occupant of a motor vehicle owned by someone outside the Dullenty household, while Dullenty was a pedestrian, or while Dullenty was sitting on his front porch. However, the Rocky Mountain policy unambiguously excludes uninsured motorist coverage while Dullenty is occupying a vehicle owned by him and not described in the policy.
The decision of the Court of Appeals, Dullenty v. Rocky Mountain Fire and Casualty Company, 107 Idaho 777, 692 P.2d 1209 (1984), focused on its view that the Rocky Mountain policy was "repugnant" to public policy as expressed in our statutes because the policy purported to limit its uninsured motorist coverage by excluding injuries sustained at the hands of an uninsured motorist while the insured was occupying vehicles owned by the insured's household but not covered by the Rocky Mountain policy. Therein the Court of Appeals relied heavily on its decision in Hammon v. Farmers Insurance Group, 107 Idaho 770, 692 P.2d 1202 (1984), issued but a few days before its decision in Dullenty.
In Hammon, the Court of Appeals was presented with the following circumstances. The Hammons owned two vehicles, both of which were insured by separate policies issued by Farmers Insurance Group. Each policy contained uninsured motorist coverage. Each policy contained a requirement that if there was a "hit and run" type of accident and an unidentified tortfeasor, there must have been a physical contact for the uninsured motorist provision to be effective. Secondly, each policy provided that, as here, the uninsured motorist coverage would not be effective while the insured was occupying a vehicle owned by the Hammon household, but not listed as a described vehicle in the particular policy.
The Hammons were injured when their vehicle was allegedly forced off the road by another vehicle, but there was no physical contact. Therefore, the first question to be decided by the Court of Appeals was whether the requirement of physical contact was a valid restriction on the otherwise uninsured motorist coverage, or whether such requirement was void as against public policy. The Court of Appeals held that the physical contact requirement was contrary to public policy as enunciated by I.C. § 41-2502. Only thereafter did the Court of Appeals find it necessary to consider the coverage question at issue in the instant case, i.e., the policy language excluding uninsured motorist coverage when the insured is occupying a vehicle owned by the family household but not described in the policy.
The court held that such restrictions on otherwise uninsured motorist coverage are repugnant to I.C. § 41-2502 stating, "The uninsured motorist coverages in both policies must be deemed to protect the Hammons as occupants in either of their vehicles, as pedestrians, or in any other circumstance where they suffer injury caused by an uninsured motorist." Thus, the Court of Appeals held that consistent with Sloviaczek v. Estate of Puckett, 98 Idaho 371, 565 P.2d 564 (1977), that the uninsured motorist coverage of both policies could be "stacked" and the Hammons thereby recover under both policies.
This Court also granted review in Hammon and reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. This Court held, "Because we hold that the physical contact requirement is not void as contrary to the Idaho uninsured motorist statute, we find it unnecessary to address the stacking issue." Hence, this Court's decision in Hammon provides no guidance on the issue presented in the instant case, i.e., whether the policy provision excluding uninsured motorist coverage while insured is occupying a vehicle owned by the family household but not described as a covered vehicle in the policy, is or is not void against public policy as was held by the Court of Appeals in its decisions in Hammon and Dullenty.
The decision of the Court of Appeals in the instant case indicated that the question presented is virtually identical to that in the Court of Appeals' decision in Hammon v. Farmers Insurance Company, supra, and that for the reasons set forth in Hammon, the Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment in the instant case. As above noted, this Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals in Hammon, however the resolution of the validity of the exclusion at issue here was found by the Supreme Court in its decision in Hammon as not necessary to be resolved.
The Court of Appeals' decision in Hammon indicated a split among the various jurisdictions on the question presented, and that the numerical majority of cases from other jurisdictions have agreed with the view adopted by the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals in Hammon held, "The uninsured motorist coverages in both policies must be deemed to protect the Hammons as occupants in either of their vehicles, as pedestrians, or in any other circumstance where they suffer injury caused by an uninsured motorist." We need not decide today whether the Court of Appeals' decision was correct in the above broad statement. We are not concerned here with the question of whether an uninsured motorist policy provides coverage in the event that a named insured, while a pedestrian, is struck by an uninsured motorist; whether the uninsured motorist policy language covers an insured who was sitting on his front porch is struck by an uninsured motorist; or whether the uninsured motorist policy language affords coverage to an insured while he is occupying any motor vehicle which is not owned by or furnished for the regular use of he or a member of his household. Arguably the policy language can be so interpreted. However, the sole question presented today is whether the uninsured motorist policy language provides coverage to an insured while he is occupying a vehicle which he owns, but is not described in the policy, and is struck by an uninsured motorist. Even more pointedly the question becomes...
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