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Spilman Wins Important Appeal Regarding "Stacking" UIM Coverage
Spilman appealed an adverse ruling out of the Circuit Court of Jackson County, West Virginia against our client, a large insurer. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issued a signed opinion, including a new syllabus point, reversing and remanding the lower court's prior adverse ruling. The matter involved a claim for "stacking" Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. The decedent was killed when the vehicle in which he was a guest passenger collided with another vehicle. Neither of the vehicles he had insured for UIM coverage under our client's policy was involved in the crash. After exhausting all other available insurance coverage, including a $20,000 payment of UIM from our client, the decedent's estate asserted that the UIM policy language was ambiguous. Typically, under West Virginia law, "ambiguous" insurance policy language is to be construed for the insured. His estate argued that the alleged ambiguity entitled it to "stack" an additional $20,000 of UIM coverage on the initial payment. The Circuit Court, in interpreting our client's policy, found such an ambiguity and granted summary judgment as a matter of law to the plaintiff on stacking, which the state Supreme Court later found to be "misguided and devoid of merit." In its reversal of the Circuit Court, the state Supreme Court relied upon the long line of anti-stacking precedent, all set forth in Spilman's briefs. The state Supreme Court also reinforced its anti-stacking precedent with a new syllabus point. The favorable ruling also resulted in a voluntary dismissal by the plaintiff of a separate "bad faith" claim in Federal Court that was premised upon our client's alleged improper denial of additional coverage.
Appellate Litigation Insurance Insurance Coverage & Bad Faith Insurance Defense Don C. A. Parker