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Yee v AAA Ins (COA – UNP 2/24/2022; RB #4390)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #356603; Unpublished
Judges Rick, Murray, and Shapiro; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Not Applicable

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Exclusions from Underinsured Motorist Benefits [Underinsured Motorist Coverage]


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant AAA Insurance’s (“AAA”) motion for summary disposition, in which it sought dismissal of Plaintiff Li Yun Yee’s underinsured motorist claim against it. The Court of Appeals held that under the plain language of Yee’s automobile insurance policy, she was excluded from pursuing a claim for underinsured motorist benefits after she was injured in a motor vehicle collision while traveling as a passenger in a motor vehicle owned by her husband.

Li Yun Yee and her husband, Michael Yee, purchased a AAA no-fault insurance policy for their respective vehicles, in which they each paid separate premiums for UM/UIM coverage, up to $250,000 per person. Li Yun was traveling as a passenger in her husband’s vehicle when the two were involved in a collision. Michael Yee had a $250,000 liability limit for bodily injury coverage, but that amount was reduced to $20,000 under the policy due to his relationship with Li Yun. Thus, Li Yun settled with her negligence action against her husband for $20,000, and thereafter sought underinsured motorist benefits from AAA. AAA denied the claim, relying on the definition of “underinsured motor vehicle” in Yee’s policy, which read:

“ ‘4. Underinsured Motor Vehicle means a motor vehicle whose ownership, maintenance or use has resulted in bodily injury of an insured person and for which the sum of the Limits of Liability under all bodily injury liability insurance policies, bonds or other security required to be maintained under law applicable to the driver or to the person or organization legally responsible for such vehicle and applicable to the vehicle is less than the limits of Underinsured Motorists Coverage provided the insured person at the time of the accident.

5. Uninsured Motor Vehicle and Underinsured Motor Vehicle does not include any motor vehicle which is:

a. owned by you or any resident of your household;"

AAA moved for summary disposition in Yee’s subsequent third-party action seeking UIM coverage under the policy, arguing that she was excluded from UIM coverage based on the policy’s plain language. Yee argued, in response, that sections 4 and 5(a) conflicted with another: her husband’s vehicle qualified as an “underinsured motor vehicle . . . whose ownership, maintenance or use has resulted in bodily injury of an insured person” under subsection 4, which was then contradicted by subsection 5(a). The trial court agreed with Yee that the policy language was ambiguous and denied AAA’s motion.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of AAA’s motion for summary disposition, holding that the “clauses do not conflict,” and that “[a] fair reading of the clauses together . . . yields one reasonable interpretation: paragraph 4 defines the term underinsured motor vehicle generally, while paragraph 5 identifies exclusions to the definition.” Thus, because Michael, who lived with Li Yun, owned the vehicle Li Yun was traveling in at the time of the collision, she was excluded from UIM coverage under the policy.

“Because there is no ambiguity in plaintiff’s policy, it must be interpreted as written. Seils, 310 Mich App at 145. Plaintiff’s policy clearly excludes vehicles owned by the policyholder, or residents of their household, from the definition of underinsured motor vehicle. Plaintiff does not contest her husband, with whom she lives, is the owner of the vehicle she claims is underinsured. This is also reflected in the renewal declaration certificates for both vehicles, which assign both vehicles the same address, which is also the address listed for plaintiff’s husband. Because the vehicle in question falls within this exclusion, it is not an underinsured motor vehicle under plaintiff’s policy, and plaintiff is not entitled to UIM benefits, regardless of the inapplicability of any subsequent exclusions.”


Lansing car accident lawyer Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit SinasDramis.com.

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