The case of Siddens v. Phila. Indem. Ins. Co. provides a thoughtful insight to the distinction between Named Insureds and occupant insureds for the purposes of Uninsured Motorist Coverage (“UM coverage”). 2021 Mo. App. LEXIS 754 (Mo. App. W.D. Aug. 10, 2021). Based on the holding from Siddens, it appears that reviewing courts will be hesitant to find an ambiguity with respect to the naming of Named Insureds when the insurance policy clearly delineates between occupant insureds and Named Insureds.
In 2019, Randall Siddens worked as an employee of Ultramax Events at a race sponsored by Ultramax Events. Id. at *1. At the time in question, Randall Siddens was picking up traffic cones alongside a roadway and placing the same into an Ultramax-owned truck. Id. During this time, a co-employee of Randall Siddens was driving another Ultramax-owned truck. Id. The co-employee struck Randall Siddens at a speed of 70 miles per hour. Id. As a result of the collision, Randall Siddens sustained catastrophic injuries and died approximately six months after the accident. Id. at *1–2.
The driver of the Ultramax Events truck was uninsured. Id. at *1. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance insured Ultramax Events and its Policy provided Uninsured Motorists Coverage (“UM Coverage”) to Ultramax Events. Id. at *2. The Policy identified “USA Track & Field Event Directors” as the Named Insured. Id. Included in the Event Directors was Ultramax Events. Id.
The Policy contained an Endorsement which provided the following:
For the COMMERCIAL AUTOMOBILE COVERAGE PART, Who Is An Insured is amended to include USA Track & Field Event Directors enrolled in this program and scheduled on the attached PI-MANU-1 (09/06) – SCHEDULE OF COVERED EVENT DIRECTORS, and their respective employees, volunteers or any other permissive user while using a covered auto with permission from a covered event director.
Id. at *2–3.
The Policy provided UM Coverage with limits of $1,000,000 for each “covered auto.” Id. at *3. If the bodily injury was sustained by any person other than a Named Insured, the limit of UM Coverage was $1,000,000. Id. Conversely, if the bodily injury was sustained by an individual Named Insured then the Policy would pay “the sum of limits applicable to each covered ‘auto,” — otherwise known as a “stacking” clause. Id. “Thus, for any insured who is not an individual Named Insured, the applicable policy limit is $1,000,000.” Id. (emphasis in original). In this case, there were seven (7) covered “autos” each with a limit of $1,000,000 in UM Coverage. Id. at *4. As such, if the same were to be stacked, the total amount of UM Coverage available to Randall Siddens would be $7,000,000. Id. (“Hence, the applicable policy limit for an individual Named Insured would be $7,000,000, while the policy limit for [Randall Siddens] if he is not an individual Named Insured would be $1,000,000.)
The wife of Randall Siddens argued that he was “an individual Named Insured who is entitled to stack the UM coverage limits.” Id. at *3. In response, Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance argued that Randall Siddens was not covered as an individual Named Insured, but rather as an insured, and “thus the coverage cannot be stacked.” Id. at *3–4.
On appeal, the wife of Randall Siddens argued that the Endorsement to the Policy modified who is an insured and the Policy made the employees of Ultramax Events, “all of whom are, of course, individuals, Named Insureds.” Id. at *5. The wife of Randall Siddens therefore argued that Randall Siddens was an individual who is a Named Insured and thus the Policy “permits her to stack the UM coverage applicable to each of the six additional automobiles.” Id. In an alternative argument, the wife of Randall Siddens argued the Endorsement was ambiguous as to who is a Named Insured. Id.
The court in Siddens began its analysis by noting that in the evaluation of UM coverage, Missouri courts have “distinguished between named insureds and occupancy insureds . . .” Id. (citing Linderer v. Royal Globe Ins. Co., 597 S.W.2d 656, 660 (Mo. App. E.D. 1980)). For a named insured, the existence of coverage is not dependent on the presence in an insured vehicle at the time of an accident involving an uninsured motorist, “but is also applicable if the named insured is a pedestrian, or is riding in someone else’s automobile.” Id. (quoting Hines v. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co., 656 S.W.2d 262, 265 (Mo. banc 1983)). “It follows that ‘for a named insured, and his or her relatives, stacking is mandatory and required.’” Id. (citing Kertz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 236 S.W.3d 39, 42 (Mo. App. E.D. 2007)). However, “for all other parties other than the Named Insured injured while driving or occupying the named insured’s vehicle, the limiting clause of the policy controls.” Id. at *7 (citing Kertz, 236 S.W.3d at 42).
The court reasoned that the Named Insured of the Policy was identified by proper name — “USA Track & Field Event Directors.” Id. “Ultramax [Events] is a Named Insured by virtue of being one of the Event Directors listed on the schedule of Event Directors attached to the Policy.” Id. “Notably, in defining the Named Insured, the Policy does not identify [Randall Siddens] or any other individuals by name.” Id.
The court noted that in contrast to Named Insureds, the Policy identified additional insureds by being a member of a defined group contained within the Policy. Id. at *7–8. “An insured’s eligibility for payment under the policy arises solely by meeting the criteria for being an insured.” Id. at *8 (citation omitted). “These insureds have been referred to as ‘occupant insureds’ by our courts in reviewing uninsured motorist coverage cases.” Id. (citing Kertz, 236 S.W.3d at 42). The Court noted that the Endorsement provided that “Who Is An Insured” included the respective employees of the Named Insured. Id. The court rejected an argument that the Endorsement made an employee of Ultramax Events a Named Insured. Id. at *9 (“However, the Amendment definitively states that ‘Who is An Insured’ is amended to include . . . Event Directors . . . and their respective employees . . . .”) The court concluded, “[n]o reasonable interpretation of the Amendment allows an employee of a Named Insured to become a Named Insured himself.” Id.
The court also rejected any argument that the Endorsement was ambiguous. Id. (“In light of our analysis and determination that Named Insured and insureds are clearly defined and distinguishable by the Policy language, this argument fails.”) “We find there is no ambiguity in the Policy as to the defined term.” Id. “The mere fact that the parties disagree as to the meaning of a term of clause in an insurance policy does not give rise to an ambiguity.” Id. (citing Hall v. Allstate Ins. Co., 407 S.W.3d 603, 607 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012)(remaining citation omitted)).
Ultimately, the court held that the wife of Randall Siddens was only entitled to $1,000,000 in UM coverage under the single vehicle policy that he was occupying at the time of the accident. The court based its analysis on the distinction between Named Insureds and occupant insureds for the purpose of “stacking” UM coverage limits.
Article by Jim Ribaudo