Insurance Policies and Anti-Stacking Clauses

Posted Saturday, February 03, 2018 by Ed Harper

Under RCW 48.22.030(6) anti-stacking exclusions are allowed. Insurance polices often include statements limiting the highest possible amount of coverage of liability that applies. In the case of Greengo v. Pemco, 135 Wn. 2d 790 (1998) Justice Sanders stated (1) – the anti-stacking provision in the passengers policy did not violate the UIM statute or public policy; (2) the provision would not bar coverage if the facts showed that more than one “accident” had occurred.

In Greengo, because there were two collisions, and Ms. Greengo was rendered a permanent quadriplegic, she could recoup two UIM claims which she made against Pemco. Factually, in Greengo, 27-year-old Lori Greengo was severely injured when the car in which she was riding as a passenger driven by David Frawley and owned by Kerry Carefree, rear-ended another car on Interstate 5 as the Frawley vehicle was itself rear-ended by a third car driven by Michael Hampshire. While the precise sequence of events is disputed, all agree there were two collisions and Ms. Greengo was rendered permanently quadripelic. Greengo at 658.

The issue is as follows if there were two accidents, then Ms. Greengo is entitled to UIM recovery from Pemco for the second accident.

In retrospect, Pemco had an exclusion which was authorized by RCW 48.22.030(6) the statute mentioned above. “To the extent it limits the total UIM liability per accident to the single highest UIM liability limit when an insured is covered under more than one UIM policy.”

The statute authorizes insurers to set liability limits on a per accident basis regardless of the number of vehicles involved in the accident. The court determined this exclusion did not violate the public policy underlying the UIM statute. The court articulated the public policy underlying UIM is to create a second layer of floating protection, not full compensation. (See Elovich case mentioned in a previous blog post.) Additionally, the court supported that this position in this anti-stacking clause applies only after the insured has received a full UIM recovery, thus satisfying the requirement that the insured receive a second layer of protection.

In Greengo the question was in a chain reaction type collision – how many accidents were there? Ms. Greengo asserted that she was “was involved in two accidents for purposes of her Pemco policy because two drivers proximately caused her injuries in two collisions.”

The court determined when there are two collisions it should be determined if each accident has its own proximate cause. If so then there are two accidents. Greengo, at 663 – 64.

“Under our approach if each accident, collision, or injury has its own proximate cause, then each will be deemed a separate accident for insurance policy purposes even if the two accidents occurred coincident, or nearly coincident in time.” The court in Greengo relied on Transcontinental Insurance Company v. Public Utility District, 111 Wn. 2d 452 (1988), “(t)he number of triggering events for insurance policy purposes depends on the number of causes underlying the alleged damage and resulting liability.” Transcontinental, at 467.

The Washington Supreme Court submitted this case Greengo v. Pemco back to the trial court to determine if there were two separate collisions each with their own inherent proximate cause.

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