The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Grippin v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. on Thursday, September 8, 2016.
Shane Grippin was seriously injured when he was hit by a truck while riding his motorcycle. After collecting the policy limits on the tortfeasor’s insurance and his motorcycle insurance, Grippin sought underinsured motorist benefits from State Farm pursuant to his grandparents’ four policies on which he was named as an “other household driver.” Although Grippin owned a home in Colorado Springs, he and his family resided approximately one week per month with his grandparents.
State Farm moved for summary judgment on the grounds that because Grippin did not reside primarily with his grandparents, he was not a “resident relative” as contemplated by the policies. Grippin responded that State Farm’s definition of “resident relative” was void as against public policy because the qualifier “primarily” diluted the statutory definition of resident relative. He alternatively argued the contracts were ambiguous because he was listed as an “other household driver” and therefore had a reasonable expectation of coverage. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of State Farm, and Grippin appealed.
On appeal, the Colorado Court of Appeals evaluated Colorado’s statutory mandate of uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage and noted that insurance policy provisions that attempt to dilute, condition, or limit statutorily mandated coverage are void and unenforceable. The court of appeals evaluated the definition of resident relative under C.R.S. § 10-4-601(13) and found no qualifying language as to the insured’s primary residence. The court of appeals agreed with Grippin that a person can have multiple residences under Colorado law and the statute’s plain language does not restrict the definition of “resident relative” to a single, “primary” residence. State Farm argued that Grippin’s reading would render some statutory language superfluous, but the court of appeals disagreed, finding the statutory definition cohesive.
The court of appeals disagreed with Grippin’s alternative contention that the contracts were ambiguous, since the policies at issue unambiguously failed to list Grippin as a covered insured. The court also determined that Grippin could not rely on the doctrine of reasonable expectations because that doctrine would only apply after coverage was determined.
The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings.