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Insurance stacking case heads to Supreme Court

An insurance-stacking case that split the Court of Appeals Western District is now under consideration in the Missouri Supreme Court.

A majority of the appeals court, sitting en banc, said Jan. 21 that a plaintiff injured in an auto accident could stack the two policies of the driver who was at fault.

Adam Dutton was injured in an auto accident with Barbara Hiles. A settlement agreement acknowledged that Hiles was at fault and Dutton’s damages exceeded the amount of liability coverage under her combined policies.

Hiles had coverage under an American Family policy for the Nissan Maxima she was driving at the time of the accident. She had a separate policy covering a Ford truck that wasn’t involved. Each policy had limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

American Family agreed to pay the $25,000 limit under the Nissan policy. Dutton sought a declaration as to whether the Ford policy provided minimum coverage under the Missouri Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, or MVFRL.

A Jackson County circuit judge ruled in favor of the insurer. But the Western District’s majority reversed, ruling that each policy must pay the minimum required liability coverage, despite exclusions and anti-stacking language in the policies.

The 6-5 decision, however, drew two dissenting opinions. Judge Alok Ahuja said the policy’s exclusion was unambiguous and argued that “the majority has conjured a brand-new coverage argument from whole cloth.” Judge Cynthia L. Martin separately wrote that “left uncorrected, the majority opinion will be cited to require stacking of MVFRL coverage from multiple owner’s policies based solely on whether the policies provide coverage of an insured.”

Following the Western District’s ruling, the Missouri Supreme Court took up the case, which will give it the final word on the matter. The case is currently being briefed, and no argument date has been set.

The case is Dutton v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co, SC94075.