Judges rule in favor of insured

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found under the plain language of a woman’s insurance policy, the woman did what was required of her by the policy to pursue an underinsured motorist claim.

Laverna Ewing was injured when Brent Vannorman’s vehicle hit hers from behind. She filed a complaint for damages against Vannorman within the two-year statute of limitations applicable to her bodily injury claims. She settled for his policy limits, which didn’t cover all her expenses, so she filed an underinsured motorist claim with her insurer, Auto-Owners Insurance Co. This claim came outside of the statute of limitations.

Auto-Owners denied her claim, arguing that she had to file it with them within the two-year limit. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Ewing and the executors of her estate, finding the underinsured motorist coverage contractual limitation provision is unenforceable because it is vague and ambiguous.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in Auto-Owners Insurance Company v. Cathy Benko and Gerald Ewing, as Executors of the Estate of Laverna Ewing, Deceased, No. 75A04-1108-CT-440, with Judge John Baker writing, “We conclude that the plain language of the provision would lead an ordinary policyholder to believe that they were required to bring a bodily injury claim against the alleged tortfeasor within the applicable statute of limitations, which occurred in this case. Additionally, if the insurance company intended a different interpretation, it should have stated so in plain English so that their policyholders understand what is necessary to protect their interests and collect their benefits under the policy.”

The judges also upheld the denial of Auto-Owners’ motion to strike the appellees’ July 21, 2011, supplemental designation of evidence that it had argued was untimely.  



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