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A question of dates

A question of dates

February 26
09:15 2018

A question of dates

Jonathan Loomis applied for an automobile policy from State Farm Fire & Casualty Company with underinsured motorist coverage in the amount of $50,000. Upon Loomis’s application, a binder was granted to Loomis, but before the policy documents were issued, Loomis was involved in an accident. Loomis settled with the at-fault driver for her policy limits of $50,000, and State Farm took the position that because the at-fault driver’s policy limits were also $50,000, Loomis did not have an underinsured motorist claim. Loomis filed a petition for declaratory judgment asking the court to declare that his policy provided coverage exceeding $50,000. Both parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the trial court granted summary judgment in State Farm’s favor. Loomis appealed.

In his motion for summary judgment, Loomis alleged that the accident occurred on March 20, 2014. In his statement of uncontroverted material facts, however, Loomis also alleged that “State Farm acknowledges that coverage was in force and effect as of the accident of March 10, 2014.” (emphasis added). To support this allegation, Loomis referred to an affidavit attached as an exhibit from State Farm representative Jessica Christianson in which Christianson stated that coverage was cancelled March 12, 2014, and “State Farm stipulates and agrees that coverage was in force and effect as of the accident of March 10, 2014.” (emphasis added). In response to Loomis’s statement of uncontroverted material facts, State Farm admitted that the accident occurred on March 20, 2014, and also on March 10, 2014. In addition, State Farm added a statement of additional uncontroverted material facts in opposition to Loomis’s motion for summary judgment in which State Farm alleged that the accident occurred March 10, 2014. In response, Loomis admitted that the accident occurred March 10, 2014.

State Farm also filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that the accident occurred on March 20, 2014. In its memorandum and statement of uncontroverted material facts, State Farm also alleged that coverage was cancelled on March 12, 2014, and the accident occurred on March 10, 2014. In his response to State Farm’s statement of uncontroverted material facts Loomis admitted that the accident occurred on March 20, 2014, and on March 10, 2014.

Despite the mutual inconsistencies in the accident date alleged, the court entered judgment in favor of State Farm. Loomis appealed.

On appeal, Loomis alleged in his statement of facts that the accident occurred on March 10, 2014, while State Farm alleged in its statement of facts that it occurred on March 20, 2014.

Loomis raised two points on appeal. First, applying Wyoming law, Loomis contended that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of State Farm because the policy defined whether Loomis was entitled to underinsured motorist coverage in one of two ways: (1) his actual damages minus any payments by the driver or (2) the amount listed on the declarations page minus any payments by the at-fault driver. Loomis asserted that because no declarations page was ever issued, the policy was unambiguous and the amount of underinsured motorist coverage he was entitled to was governed by his actual damages minus any payments by the driver.

Second, Loomis argued that to the extent that the lack of a declarations page created an ambiguity in the interpretation of the policy, the trial court erred in failing to construe the “limits” language in Loomis’s favor to provide underinsured motorist limits in excess of those provided by the at-fault driver. State Farm asserted that the trial court properly granted summary judgment in its favor because the policy unambiguously defined an underinsured vehicle as having less coverage than the amount provided under the State Farm policy and thus the at-fault driver’s $50,000 policy was not underinsured because it was the same amount of coverage provided to Loomis under the policy.

The appellate court declined to address these arguments on the merits because it found that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to when the accident occurred. Both Loomis and State Farm asserted and admitted to the accident having occurred on March 20, 2014, and on March 10, 2014.

Because State Farm submitted materials that were inconsistent on a material fact, the court said, it failed to make a prima facie showing of entitlement to summary judgment. The judgment in favor of State Farm was reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Loomis vs. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company-Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, Division Two-October 31, 2017-No. ED 105551.

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