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Woman, adult son collect from uninsured motorist policy

A Bates County man and his mother, both injured in a collision that killed a driver who hit their car head-on, settled an uninsured motorist lawsuit against their own insurer for a total of $320,000.

Gene Allen Morris, 53, and Erma Wainscott, 74, both of Butler, were airlifted to Research Medical Center in Kansas City with significant injuries, said plaintiffs’ attorney M. Blake Heath. Morris was driving a 2015 GMC Terrain owned by Wainscott, his front-seat passenger, when the SUV was hit by a 2001 Kia Spectra operated by Laura J. Gray of Appleton City.

According to a Missouri State Highway Patrol accident report, Gray, then 37, lost control of her car on a rural highway in St. Clair County before veering onto the road’s shoulder and then crossing its center line after over-correcting. The Kia then hit the SUV, which was traveling in the opposite direction on Route H, forcing both vehicles off the road.  Gray was pronounced dead at the scene of the Dec. 8, 2016, crash.

Gray’s USAA insurance policy had liability limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per occurrence, so once those were exhausted, the two injured plaintiffs sought additional compensation through Wainscott’s underinsured motorist policy with Farm Bureau Town and Country of Missouri. That coverage had substantially higher limits of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per incident.

The suit, filed in Cole County Circuit Court in August 2017, with Morris’ wife as an additional plaintiff, was settled in November 2018 after mediation, records provided by Heath show, with Wainscott receiving $165,000 and Morris $155,000. An attorney representing the insurer did not respond to a request for comment.

Heath said Farm Bureau initially offered $40,000 to settle Morris’ claim and $30,000 for Wainscott. The language of the policy would likely have given Farm Bureau a set-off, making the limits $200,000 per person, he added.

Motor-vehicle collision, insurance

Breakdown: $165,000 for passenger, $155,000 for driver

Venue: Cole County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 17AC-CC00460/Nov. 28, 2018

Insurer: Farm Bureau Town and Country Insurance Co. of Missouri

Caption: Gene and Brandelle Morris, Erma Wainscott v. Farm Bureau Town and Country Insurance Co. of Missouri

Plaintiffs’ Attorney: M. Blake Heath, M. Blake Heath Trial Attorney LLC, Kansas City

Defendant’s Attorneys: Chris Rackers and Kaci R. Peterson, Schreimann, Rackers & Francka, Jefferson City