Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #357124; Unpublished
Judges Markey, Shapiro, and Patel; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant Meemic Insurance Company’s (“Meemic”) motion for summary disposition, in which it sought dismissal of Plaintiff Alexus Greiwe’s claim for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits. The Court of Appeals held that Greiwe was ineligible for UIM benefits related to the subject car crash because the driver who caused the crash was not driving an ‘underinsured motor vehicle,’ as that term was defined in the Meemic policy.
Alexus Greiwe and four other persons were traveling as passengers in a Jeep Wrangler being driven by Gage Hamilton when Hamilton fell asleep at the wheel, veered off the roadway, and crashed into a fire hydrant. Greiwe and the other passengers were all ejected from the vehicle, and at least three sustained injuries. At the time of the crash, the Jeep Wrangler was owned by Gage Hamilton’s father and insured under a policy with Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan (“Farm Bureau”), which provided for liability insurance up to $500,000 per person/$500,000 per occurrence. Greiwe and two of the other passengers filed separate auto negligence actions against the Hamiltons, and after the cases were all consolidated, Farm Bureau filed an interpleader action because the $500,000 policy limits were not sufficient to satisfy the claims of all plaintiffs. Ultimately, the parties agreed to an apportionment of the $500,000, in which Greiwe received $280,000. Greiwe then proceeded to file a claim for UIM coverage under her grandparents’ policy with Meemic, which provided for such coverage up to $500,000. Meemic denied the claim and moved for summary disposition in Greiwe’s subsequent action against it, arguing that the Jeep Wrangler did not qualify as an ‘underinsured motor vehicle’ under its policy because the UIM coverage limits were equal to Farm Bureau’s liability limits. In response, Greiwe argued that the Jeep Wrangler was effectively underinsured because she was only eligible for a reduced portion of the $500,000 liability limits. The trial court agreed with Greiwe and denied Meemic’s motion.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary disposition order, first quoting the policy’s definition of ‘underinsured motor vehicle’:
“A. a motor vehicle which has bodily injury liability protection in effect and applicable at the time of the accident in an amount equal to or greater than the amounts specified for bodily injury liability by the financial responsibility laws of Michigan, but less than the limits of liability for Underinsured Motorists Coverage shown on the Declarations page; and
B. in which the limits of liability are less than the amount of damages the insured person is legally entitled to recover for bodily injury.”
The Court held that under the plain language of the policy, Greiwe was not entitled to UIM coverage because the Jeep Wrangler did not have ‘bodily injury liability protection . . . in an amount . . . less than the limits of liability for Underinsured Motorist Coverage.’ Greiwe offered several arguments as to why the policy’s definition was ambiguous—and therefore should not have been given full force and effect—but the court rejected each one. For instance, the Court agreed with Greiwe that the policy did not explicitly address a scenario such as the one presented in this case, but disagreed with her contention that that, in and of itself, created an ambiguity.