Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bodily Injury Recovery from Non-Motor Vehicle Defendant Reduces SUM Coverage Recovery

Redeye v. Progressive Ins. Co.
(4th Dept., decided 11/13/2015)

Condition 11 of the prescribed New York Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists (SUM) Endorsement (11 NYCRR § 60-2.3[f]) provides
11.  Non-Duplication: This SUM coverage shall not duplicate any of the following: 
(a) benefits payable under workers' compensation or other similar laws;
(b) non-occupational disability benefits under article nine of the Workers' Compensation Law or other similar law;
(c) any amounts recovered or recoverable pursuant to article fifty-one of the New York Insurance Law or any similar motor vehicle insurance payable without regard to fault;
(d) any valid or collectible motor vehicle medical payments insurance; or
(e) any amounts recovered as bodily injury damages from sources other than motor vehicle bodily injury liability insurance policies or bonds.
Plaintiff was a pedestrian who was injured after a vehicle operated by a drunk driver collided with a parked vehicle, which was propelled into plaintiff and two other pedestrians. Plaintiff commenced an action against the driver of the vehicle as well as a fire company that allegedly served the driver alcoholic beverages prior to the accident, and he received a settlement from both, the cumulative total of which exceeded plaintiff's SUM coverage limit with Progressive.

Contending that only his settlement from the vehicle's driver should reduce his SUM recovery, plaintiff claimed SUM coverage benefits from Progressive.  Progressive denied the SUM claim on the ground that plaintiff's SUM coverage was exhausted by the recovery from both the driver and the fire company, prompting plaintiff to commence this action.  Progressive moved for summary judgment, which Supreme Court granted.

In AFFIRMING summary judgment to Progressive, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, rejected plaintiff's argument that Progressive improperly reduced his SUM coverage by the amount he had received in settlement from the fire company's general liability insurer:
Supreme Court properly granted defendant's motion for summary judgment seeking, inter alia, to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff does not dispute that the SUM coverage is properly reduced by the amount he recovered from the driver's insurer. He contends, however, that it was improper to reduce the SUM coverage from the amount he received from the fire company under its general liability insurance policy. We reject that contention. Condition 11 (e) of the SUM endorsement under defendant's policy provided that SUM coverage "shall not duplicate . . . any amounts recovered as bodily injury damages from sources other than motor vehicle bodily injury liability insurance policies or bonds." Here, the payment plaintiff received from the fire company's insurer was for bodily injury damages, and thus the amount of SUM benefits available to plaintiff was properly reduced by that amount (see Weiss v Tri-State Consumer Ins. Co., 98 AD3d 1107, 1110-1111).
Condition 6 of the prescribed SUM endorsement also provides:
6.  Maximum SUM Payments: Regardless of the number of insureds, our maximum payment under this SUM endorsement shall be the difference between:
(a) the SUM limits; and
(b) the motor vehicle bodily injury liability insurance or bond payments received by the insured or the insured's legal representative, from or on behalf of all persons that may be legally liable for the bodily injury sustained by the insured. 
The SUM limit shown on the Declarations is the amount of coverage for all damages due to bodily injury in any one accident.3 (The SUM limit shown on the Declarations for “Each Person” is the amount of coverage for all damages due to bodily injury to one person. The SUM limit shown under “Each Accident” is, subject to the limit for each person, the total amount of coverage for all damages due to bodily injury to two or more persons in the same accident).4
Plaintiff also argued that the SUM endorsement of his policy with Progressive was ambiguous because Condition 11 conflicted with Condition 6 of that endorsement.  In rejecting that argument, the appellate court held:
Contrary to plaintiff's contention, the policy is not ambiguous and condition 11 does not conflict with condition 6 of the SUM endorsement (see generally Dean v Tower Ins. Co. of N.Y., 19 NY3d 704, 708; White v Continental Cas. Co., 9 NY3d 264, 267). Condition 6 provides that the maximum payment under the SUM endorsement is the difference between the SUM limit and any payments received from a motor vehicle bodily injury liability policy. It does not state that the difference is "the" SUM payment that is to be given to plaintiff, but rather it states that the difference is the "maximum" payment, which the average insured would understand to mean that it could be further reduced (see generally Dean, 19 NY3d at 708). Condition 6 and condition 11 together resulted in a reduction in the SUM benefits available by the total settlement received by plaintiff in his prior action.
Maximum is not the.  The is not maximum.  Got it.

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