Insurance

Laura D. Devine
Civil Litigation Attorney
Boyle Shaughnessy Law
Manchester, NH

No. 2018-0706
May 22, 2020
Affirmed.

  • Whether an insured’s amendment of coverage terms of insurance policy creates a new policy under RSA 264:15, I, and requires an insured to reject in writing of uninsured motorist coverage

The plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident in November 2015 and sought uninsured motorist benefits pursuant to his Allstate Indemnity Company umbrella insurance policy. Allstate denied the coverage because in 2011, when the initial umbrella insurance policy took effect, he had declined uninsured motorist benefits in writing. The plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action to determine whether his insurance policy provided uninsured motorist coverage. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Allstate and ruled that the plaintiff’s policy did not include uninsured motorist coverage because the policy in effect in November 2015 was a renewal of the policy in which he had declined uninsured motorist policy in writing.

The court noted that the relevant facts were as follows. In 2011, the plaintiff applied for a personal umbrella insurance policy from Allstate which provided him with $2M worth of coverage. After the policy became effective, he submitted to Allstate a completed personal umbrella policy uninsured motorist selection/rejection form. This specifically rejected uninsured motorist coverage for his personal umbrella policy. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, he renewed his policy through a “renewal offer” from Allstate and Allstate issued an amended personal umbrella policy declaration. Each policy was effective for one year. His policy number remained the same and substantially the same coverage term remained the same during the subsequent renewals. The first page of the policy declaration for each coverage period stated “uninsured motorist insurance rejected” each year Allstate sent coverage. In 2015, Allstate again sent to the plaintiff a policy renewal offer, however, the plaintiff requested that Allstate reduce his coverage limit from $2 million to $1 million for the policy period from 2015 to 2016. Allstate sent the plaintiff amended personal umbrella policy declarations which stated in bold font that he had rejected uninsured motorist coverage. The trial court found that it was undisputed that the plaintiff made no written request for uninsured motorist coverage.

The plaintiff advanced several arguments in an effort to obtain coverage under RSA 264:15, I (Supp. 2019) and negate the fact that he had rejected uninsured motorist coverage in writing in 2011. First, he argued that because his coverage limit was reduced from $2 million to $1 million on February 2, 2015, the 2015 to 2016 policy was a new policy to which his 2011 waiver of uninsured motorist coverage did not apply. He next argued that because he did not execute a new written waiver of uninsured motorist coverage for the 2015-16 policy Allstate was required by statute to provide him with uninsured motorist coverage. In opposition, Allstate argued that he never revoked his waiver by requesting uninsured motorist coverage in writing as required by statute.

The trial court granted this motion for summary judgment and noted that it was undisputed that the plaintiff rejected uninsured motorist coverage in 2011 and that he had never subsequently requested uninsured motorist coverage in writing. It determined the applicable policy was a renewal. The Supreme Court affirmed.

 

Mark Morrissette, McDowell & Osburn, Manchester, for the plaintiff. Doreen Connor, Primmer, Piper, Eggleston and Cramer, Manchester, for the defendant.