Another Underinsured Motorist policy is interpreted to deny the insured benefits
Joseph P. Esmer was killed and several people were hurt when Caitlin Grubb lost control of her vehicle on a wintry US-2 in Mackinaw County. Esmer's Estate sued HomeOwners Insurance Company, a subsidiary of AutoOwners, claiming that it owed Underinsured Motorist Coverage to Esmer. Grubb had purchased liability insurance in the amount of $500,000 per person and $500,000.00 per occurrence. The latter limit was then divided among the various claimants giving $270,000 dollars to the various injured parties and $230,000 to the Esmer Estate.
HomeOwners had written Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) with limits of $500,000 per person and $500,000 per occurrence on the car Esmer was riding in. Esmer's lawyers argued that the family should be able to collect $270,000.00 in UIM benefits for Esmer's death, since they had received only $230,000 from the at-fault driver. The AutoOwners/HomeOwners policies, however, are written so that regardless of what the injury victim actually receives, they are ineligible for UIM benefits if the policy limits on the at-fault driver equal the UIM limits. Thus, even though Esmer only received $230,000.00 because other claimants shared in the at-fault's liability limits, since liability coverage of $500,000 per injury was theoretically available for Esmer's wrongful death, Esmer wasn't eligible for UIM benefits.