Umbrella Policy’s UIM Endorsement Expands the Amount, Not the Scope, of UIM Coverage Provided by Underlying Policies

Christal v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Wash. (May 23, 2006)

Motorcyclist Richard Christal was struck and killed by an underinsured motorist (UIM). The Christals owned Farmers policies covering four automobiles and Christal's motorcycle, as well as an umbrella policy. The automobile policies provided UIM coverage, but the motorcycle policy did not. The umbrella policy supplemented UIM coverage “to the extent” such coverage was “a part of” the underlying policies. Farmers denied coverage for Christal’s death.

Christal’s estate argued that, although the motorcycle policy did not provide UIM coverage on the motorcycle policy, the umbrella policy provided UIM coverage because UIM coverage was “a part of” the four automobile policies. The trial court granted summary judgment to Farmers, and the court of appeals affirmed. The court reasoned, “An average purchaser of insurance would understand that the umbrella policy expands the amount, not the scope, of UIM coverage[.]” If the result were otherwise, the court continued, “an insured could obtain UIM coverage for any number of vehicles for a single premium,” which would “nullify the underlying policies’ exclusion for uninsured vehicles owned by an insured.”