Supreme Court backs insurance agency on umbrella policy claim

By Chris Dickerson | Dec 1, 2005

Justice Robin Davis

The West Virginia Supreme Court has affirmed a Fayette County Circuit Court ruling that an insurance company didn’t have a duty to offer a client uninsured and underinsured motor vehicle coverage when he bought or renewed an umbrella insurance policy.

On July 22, 2000, Dr. James P. Brown was involved in an accident that killed four minors in the other car. Brown and his wife sustained various injuries. The insurance company of the deceased minor driver of the other vehicle filed suit against the Browns, and Brown then sued his insurance company, Shelby Casualty Insurance Company, to recover additional underinsured motorist benefits for the injuries he and his wife sustained.

Brown claimed he was entitled to recover underinsured motorist benefits from his policy because he alleged State Code specifically requires that an insurer who sells a policy providing motor vehicle insurance coverage is required to offer the insured the opportunity to purchase uninsured and underinsured motor vehicle coverage in an amount equal to the liability limits of said umbrella liability policy, in this case, $1,000,000.

Because Shelby never offered him the opportunity to purchase such coverage, Brown claimed it will be read into his umbrella insurance policy as a matter of public policy and he is entitled to collect the additional underinsured motorist benefits that would have been provided.

Shelby maintained that the State Code did not require it to offer Brown the chance to buy such coverage because it was not specifically imposed by the Legislature until 2001.

Justice Robin Davis wrote the court’s opinion.

Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 32566

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