Current Issues in Underinsured and Uninsured Insurance Coverage in Missouri

Uninsured Motor Vehicle Coverage – Stacking

The strong public policy of mandated uninsured coverage affects the stacking of uninsured motorist coverage. Stacking is the ability of the insured to collect insurance coverage from multiple insurance policies. Long v. Shelter Ins. Co., No. WD 73037, 2011 WL 3106966, at *3, (Mo. App. W.D. Jul. 26, 2011). The key decision by the Missouri Supreme Court on stacking uninsured motorist coverage was in Cameron Mutual Insurance Company v. Madden. 533 S.W.2d 538 (Mo. banc 1976).

The insured in Cameron had two cars with each car listed separately on the declaration page of the policy, uninsured motorist coverage was listed for each car, and a $3.00 premium was charged for uninsured motorist coverage on each car ($6.00 total). Id. Each provided $10,000 coverage for each person and $20,000 coverage for each accident. Id. The insured’s wife was killed while driving one of these insured cars in an accident with an underinsured driver. Id. The insured incurred more damages than the $10,000 coverage limit for one car. Id. The insured claimed he could recover up to $20,000 in damages while the insurer claimed his recovery was limited to $10,000 because the two coverages could not be stacked. Id. The insurer argued the policy language was clear and unambiguous in limiting coverage to whichever insured vehicle was in the accident and as that coverage met the statutory minimums it did not violate the statute to limit the recovery. Id at 539-40.

The Supreme Court followed the reasoning in Galloway v. Farmers Insurance Company, Inc., where the Western District ruled an insured could stack his uninsured coverage. Id. (citing Galloway v. Farmers Ins. Co., Inc., 523 S.W.2d 339, 342 (Mo. App. W.D. 1975)). In Galloway, the insured had two separate insurance policies for two different cars. Cameron, 533 S.W.2d at 541. Each policy had uninsured motorist coverage with $10,000 per person limits. Id. The Galloway Court concluded that public policy as expressed by Section 379.203 R.S.Mo. required that each policy contain at least the statutory minimum amounts of coverage, which could not be reduced by provisions in the insurance policy. Id. Whether different insurers or the same insurers issued the policies was irrelevant; each must provide minimum coverage and must be stacked. Id.

Accepting this premise from Galloway, the Supreme Court found the form of a policy should not affect this premise. Id. at 543-44. If uninsured coverage issued by one insurer in the form of two separate policies must be stacked, then uninsured coverage issued by one insurer in the form of one combination policy covering more than one vehicles, must also be stacked. Id. at 544-45. The Court did not consider whether the language was unambiguous because any language limiting stacking in the insurance policy would violate public policy. Id. at 545. Public policy mandated the stacking of the insured’s two sets of uninsured motorist coverage, within the same insurance policy, Id. at 544-45.

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