Justices vacate ruling for insurer in fatal UIM recovery case

Indiana Supreme Court justices have vacated a ruling in favor of a deceased woman’s parents’ insurance company, concluding that her estate is entitled to summary judgment on whether she was considered an insured person under her parent’s coverage.

Shelina Glover died in a three-vehicle car crash while riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by her estranged husband. Her estate settled its claims against the two responsible drivers, whose insurers paid policy limits totaling $75,000. Her estate also received separate settlements of $25,000 each for underinsured-motorist coverage from Shelina’s own carrier and from that of her estranged husband.

The estate then requested further UIM coverage of $25,000 under Shelina’s parents’ Allstate policy, which provides up to $100,000 per person for bodily injury, including death.

But Allstate opposed the estate’s claim on two grounds. First, that Shelina was not a “resident relative” under the policy because her parents did not notify Allstate that she had been living with them. Second, Allstate argued that even if Shelina were an insured person under her parents’ policy, the policy’s offset and anti-stacking provisions bar the estate from recovery because the $125,000 the estate received from other insurers exceeds the limits under the policy.

The Marion Superior Court entered summary judgment for Allstate “based solely on [Allstate’s] position regarding offsets,” but denied it with regard to the “question of notification.” The Indiana Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed after finding the estate of Shelina Glover Robinson was not entitled to more recovery under her parents’ Allstate automobile insurance policy because its uninsured motorist coverage recovery limit was reduced to zero after the estate received settlements totaling more than $100,000.

But the Indiana Supreme Court rejected both of Allstate’s arguments in a Thursday decision in the case of Steven Glover, As Personal Representative of the Estate of Shelina M. Glover v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company, 20S-CT-23.

First, it concluded that Shelina was a “resident relative” to which the notice requirement did not apply, making her an “insured person” under the Glovers’ Allstate policy.

Unfortunately, Allstate’s policy does not define ‘operator’. And in briefing before the court of appeals and our Court, Allstate did not propose a definition. Given the policy’s silence and the term’s plain meaning, we interpret ‘operator’ to be a person who is or will be operating one of the vehicles covered under the policy. Applying this interpretation, we hold that Shelina was not an operator,” Justice Geoffrey Slaughter wrote for the Supreme Court.

Applying its precedent, the Supreme Court additionally held that Allstate’s anti-stacking clause prevents only the aggregation of UIM policy limits; it does

not bar aggregating more than one UIM recovery.

“Then, we hold that Allstate’s $100,000 per-person UIM limits are offset by the $75,000 the Estate received from Hahn’s and Bogue’s liability insurers. These payments were made on behalf of the two drivers “legally responsible” for Shelina’s death,” the justices wrote. “But Allstate’s UIM limits are not offset by the UIM payments the Estate received from Robinson’s and Shelina’s own policies. Unlike the liability payments, the UIM payments were not made on behalf of persons ‘legally responsible’ for Shelina’s death.

“Thus, the Estate can recover $25,000 in excess UIM benefits under the Allstate policy as its total UIM recovery will still be less than the policy’s $100,000 UIM limits,” it concluded.

The high court therefore vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded with instructions to grant the estate’s cross-motion for summary judgment.

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