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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.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262