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MOTORCYCLE MANIA: NO UIM UNDER AUTO POLICIES

MOTORCYCLE MANIA: NO UIM UNDER AUTO POLICIES

January 25
08:36 2021

MOTORCYCLE MANIA: NO UIM UNDER AUTO POLICIES

Shelter Mutual Insurance Company issued three motor vehicle policies to Devan Aslin, all of which included UIM coverage of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident, subject to designated exclusions.

On June 17, 2018, Aslin was operating a 2016 Harley Davidson motorcycle (to which he held title) when another vehicle hit him, causing an accident. Aslin filed a claim against the driver of that vehicle and settled with her insurer for the policy limits.

On December 20, 2018, Aslin filed suit against Shelter, claiming the insurer owed him underinsured motorist coverage under the policies.

The policies all contained the same exclusion for vehicles “owned” by an insured. The relevant exclusion stated:

EXCLUSIONS FROM THIS COVERAGE

This coverage does not apply:

(2) If any part of the damages resulted from bodily injury sustained while the insured was occupying a motor vehicle other than the described auto, owned by any insured, spouse, or a resident of any insured’s household.

The policies defined ownership as:

(31) Own means the person referred to holds the legally recognized title to, or is a leaseholder of, an item of real or personal property, even if there are other owners. This definition is not changed by the patterns of usage of the property. With respect to vehicles only, it means the person in possession of the vehicle, if that person:

(a) Has the right to purchase it upon performance of conditions stated in a conditional sale agreement;

(b) Is a lender entitled to possession of it based on the terms of a loan secured by that vehicle, or

(c) Is a lessor entitled to possession of it based on a lease agreement for that vehicle.

The case was submitted to the court for determination on a joint stipulation of facts. Both parties filed briefs with the court. On December 20, 2019, the court entered judgment in favor of Shelter. Aslin appealed.

On appeal, Aslin asserted that the trial court erred in finding that the owned vehicle exclusion in the policies applied to him because the definition of “own” in the policies did not apply to him and that he was therefore owed UIM coverage under the policies.

The appellate court noted that Aslin’s argument focused on items (a) through (c) in the exclusions but ignored the sentence that unambiguously stated that holding legal title to personal property is ownership for purposes of the policies. The judgment of the trial court was affirmed.

Aslin v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Company—Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, Division One—August 5, 2020—No. SD 36528.

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