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Kilby Butte Colony, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Montana

October 10, 2017

KILBY BUTTE COLONY, INC., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: August 2, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Musselshell, Cause No. DV-14-81 Honorable Randal I. Spaulding, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Torger S. Oaas, Attorney at Law, Lewistown, Montana.

          For Appellee: Guy W. Rogers, Jon A. Wilson, Brown Law Firm, P.C., Billings, Montana

          OPINION

          James Jeremiah Shea Justice.

         ¶1 Plaintiff Kilby Butte Colony, Inc., ("Kilby Butte" or "Colony") appeals the order by the Fourteenth Judicial District Court, Musselshell County, denying its summary judgment motion and granting summary judgment to Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm"). We address the following issue:

Whether the District Court erred by granting summary judgment to State Farm on the grounds that the Stahls did not qualify as insureds under Kilby Butte Colony's State Farm Policy.

         ¶2 We affirm.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 On December 15, 2013, Mary Ann and Ivan Stahl were injured in an automobile accident when traveling in Saskatchewan, Canada. At the time of the accident, the Stahls were passengers in a motor vehicle owned by a Canadian Hutterite Colony. Another individual was at fault for the accident.

         ¶4 The Stahls are members of the Kilby Butte Hutterite Colony. Kilby Butte is a Montana religious corporation with a community treasury that engages in business for the common benefit of its members. Hutterite colony members own assets of the community collectively; therefore, the Stahls cannot own a vehicle in their individual capacities. Kilby Butte owns multiple vehicles all titled and insured in the Colony's name. All of the Colony's auto insurance policies were purchased through State Farm at State Farm's agency office in Lewistown. No individual Colony members were listed as named insureds on any vehicle owned by the Colony.

         ¶5 The Colony submitted a claim to State Farm on behalf of the Stahls under its 2006 Freightliner Policy ("Policy") that provided underinsured motorist coverage ("UIM Coverage") in the amount of $50, 000 per person and $100, 000 per accident. State Farm declined the Stahls' claim because the Stahls were not occupying the Freightliner at the time of their accident and did not meet the definition of "insured" under the Policy. The declaration page for the Policy listed the named insured as "Kilby Butte Colony." The UIM Coverage is detailed in Policy Form 9826A "State Farm Car Policy Booklet" as follows (emphasis in the original):

         Insuring Agreement

         We will pay compensatory damages for bodily injury an insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or driver of an underinsured motor vehicle. The bodily injury must be:

1. sustained by an insured; and
2. caused by an accident that involves the operation, maintenance, or use of an underinsured motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.

         Policy Form 9826A defines "insured" as follows in regards to UIM Coverage (emphasis in the original):

Insured means:
1. you;
2. resident relatives;
3. any other person who is not insured for underinsured motor vehicle coverage under another vehicle policy and only while that person is occupying a car:
a. that is used within the scope of your consent;
b. the ownership, maintenance, or use of which is provided liability coverage by one of the State Farm Companies; and
c. that is either:
(1) owned by:
(a) the first person shown as a named insured on the Declarations Page or that named insured's spouse who resides ...

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