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Cramer v. Farmers Insurance Exchange

Supreme Court of Montana

August 14, 2018

JAMIE CRAMER, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
FARMERS INSURANCE EXCHANGE, a reciprocal insurer, Defendant and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: July 11, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DV-16-1053 Honorable Robert L. Deschamps, III, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Lon J. Dale, Milodragovich, Dale & Steinbrenner, P.C., Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: William J. Mattix, Crowley Fleck PLLP, Billings, Montana

          OPINION

          JIM RICE JUSTICE

         ¶1 Jamie Cramer (Cramer) appeals the entry of summary judgment in her declaratory action regarding underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) in favor of Defendant Farmers Insurance Exchange (Farmers), by the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County. We reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand for further proceedings, addressing the following issues:

1. Did the District Court err by holding Farmers could offset its UIM obligation to Cramer dollar-for-dollar with GEICO's entire UIM payment?
2. Did the District Court err by holding the non-duplication clause in Farmers' policy is unambiguous and does not violate the reasonable expectations doctrine?
3. Is Cramer entitled to attorney fees?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Cramer was one of five passengers in a vehicle hit by an at-fault vehicle. Cramer stipulated that the total personal damages she sustained in that accident was $75, 686.81. She was apportioned $27, 000 of the tortfeasor's liability coverage limits for her bodily injury claims, as other passengers also sustained injuries, and thus the tortfeasor was underinsured by $48, 686.81 as to Cramer's damages.

         ¶3 The vehicle in which Cramer was a passenger was insured by GEICO. GEICO paid Cramer its individual UIM coverage limit of $25, 000. Cramer carried personal vehicle coverage with Farmers, including medical payment (MedPay) coverage with a $100, 000 limit, and UIM coverage with a $50, 000 individual limit. Farmers paid Cramer $21, 186.81 under her MedPay coverage. Thus, from these sources, Cramer received payments of $73, 186.81, or $2, 500 less than her total stipulated damages.

         ¶4 Cramer made a claim under her UIM coverage with Farmers, and two disputes arose that led Cramer to file this declaratory action. First, the parties disagreed regarding how much of the $25, 000 GEICO UIM payment Farmers could offset against its own UIM obligation to Cramer. Farmers' UIM coverage in Cramer's policy contained the following provisions:

We will pay all sums which an insured person is legally entitled to recover as damages from the owner or operator of an UNDERinsured motor vehicle because of bodily injury sustained by the insured person.
. . .
2. The amount of UNDERinsured Motorist Coverage we will pay shall be reduced by the amount of any other bodily injury coverage available to any party held to be liable for the accident.
3. If any other collectible insurance applies to a loss covered by this part, we will pay only our share. Our share is the proportion that our limits of liability bear to the total of all applicable limits.

(Emphasis in original.) Likewise, the GEICO policy had a similar "other insurance" provision governing its ...


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