Swan v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 04CA2282.

Citation140 P.3d 261
Case DateApril 20, 2006
CourtCourt of Appeals of Colorado
140 P.3d 261
Barbara SWAN and Paul Swan, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
No. 04CA2282.
Colorado Court of Appeals, Div. III.
April 20, 2006.

Bond & Morris, P.C., David M. Tenner, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Lambdin & Chaney, LLP, Suzanne Lambdin, L. Kathleen Chaney, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee.


In this action concerning the per person liability limits in an automobile insurance policy, Barbara and Paul Swan (the insureds) appeal the trial court's summary judgment in favor of Farmers Insurance Exchange (the insurer). We affirm.

The insureds and their minor son were insured under an automobile policy issued by the insurer. On July 5, 2001, the minor son, while driving the insureds' automobile, was involved in a vehicle-pedestrian accident that injured two sisters. One sister (the injured sister) was seriously injured, and the other (the deceased sister) died from her injuries.

The insureds and their son were sued by (1) the deceased sister's estate for medical and funeral expenses; (2) the deceased sister's parents for wrongful death; and (3) the

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injured sister for personal injuries she sustained as a result of the accident.

The insurer provided a defense as required by the policy. The insureds settled with all the parties for a total of $300,000. The insureds' policy provided bodily injury coverage in the amount of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence. The insurer paid $200,000 toward settlement of the claims based upon the $100,000 per person liability limits. The insureds provided $100,000 of their personal funds for the settlement.

The insureds then filed this action against the insurer for its failure to fund the entire settlement. They asserted breach of contract, bad faith breach of insurance contract, and violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, and they sought damages in the amount of their contribution to the settlement ($100,000) together with punitive damages. The insureds filed a motion for partial summary judgment as to their breach of contract claim. The insurer filed a cross-motion for summary judgment as to all claims. The trial court denied the insureds' motion and granted the insurer's motion. This appeal followed.

The declarations page of the insurance policy provided coverage for bodily injury of $100,000 for each person and $300,000 for each occurrence. The policy defines "bodily injury" as "bodily injury to or sickness, disease or death of any person."

The insuring language of the policy stated:

We will pay damages for which any insured person is legally liable because of bodily injury to any person . . . arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of a private passenger car ....

The limits of liability are, in pertinent part, as follows:

The bodily injury liability limit for "each person" is the maximum for bodily injury sustained by one person in any occurrence. Any claim for loss of consortium or injury to the relationship arising from this injury shall be included in this limit.

If the financial responsibility law of the place of the accident treats the loss of consortium as a separate claim, financial responsibility limits will be furnished.

2. Subject to the bodily injury liability limit for "each person" the bodily injury liability limit for "each occurrence" is the maximum combined amount for bodily injury sustained by two or more persons in any occurrence.


4. We will pay no more than the maximum limits provided by this policy regardless of the number of vehicles insured, insured persons, claims, claimants, policies, or vehicles involved in the occurrence.

The question on appeal is whether the parents of the deceased sister who brought a wrongful death claim are a "person" separate and apart from the deceased sister within the meaning of the declarations, the insuring language, or the limitations of the policy, such that a separate "per person" policy limit applies to them. We answer the question in the negative.

On appeal, the insureds assert, as they did in the trial court, that the policy is ambiguous on its face; that their interpretation of the policy is reasonable; and that the insurer must provide an additional $100,000 of coverage up to the per occurrence limit for the wrongful death claims made against them by the deceased sister's parents.

The claimed ambiguities are that (1) the declarations page does not define "each person"; (2) the first sentence of the limits of liability section applies only to "bodily injury" sustained, and hence wrongful death claims are not so limited; and (3) the phrase "injury to the relationship" is ambiguous and should be interpreted to include a wrongful death claim.

We review a trial court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment de novo. Ryder v. Mitchell, 54 P.3d 885 (Colo.2002). Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and supporting documents clearly demonstrate that there are no issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Cotter Corp. v. Am. Empire Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 90 P.3d 814 (Colo.2004).

We review de novo the interpretation of an insurance contract. Mgmt. Specialists, Inc.

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v. Northfield Ins. Co., 117 P.3d 32 (Colo.App. 2004). Unless there is an ambiguity in the policy language, it must be enforced as written. Ballow v. PHICO Ins. Co., 875 P.2d 1354 (Colo.1993).

The trial court concluded that the policy was unambiguous because it clearly sets the limits on damages payable by the insurer for one person who sustains bodily injury in an accident or occurrence, and the limit of the insurer's liability does not turn on the number of persons who may suffer damage arising from the bodily injury, including death, of a person suffering bodily injury in the accident.


The insureds first contend that the phrase "each person" is ambiguous and that they are a "person" within the meaning of the policy. We disagree.

Neither the declarations nor the definitions define the term "each person." However, the limits of liability provisions state that the maximum bodily injury benefit for "`each person' is the maximum for bodily injury sustained by one person in any occurrence" (emphasis added). The policy defines "bodily injury" as "bodily injury, sickness, disease or death."

Here, the deceased sister's death clearly falls within the definition of...

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2 cases
  • Draper v. DeFrenchi–Gordineer
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • September 1, 2011
    ...insurance”); but see Williams v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 195 P.3d 1158, 1160 (Colo.App.2008)(citing Swan v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 140 P.3d 261, 265 (Colo.App.2006), for the proposition that loss of consortium is a separate, rather than a derivative, claim). As a separate claim, it ......
  • Williams v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 07CA1667.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • September 18, 2008
    ...injuries is not derivative, but is a separate and distinct claim. See Wieprzkowski, 976 P.2d at 893; see also Swan v. Farmers Ins. Exch., 140 P.3d 261, 265 (Colo.App.2006)(wrongful death and loss of consortium are separate, rather than derivative claims); State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. L......

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