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Holding the title of a vehicle makes you the "owner"



Devan Aslin ("Aslin") appealed to the Court and found that Aslin – who was involved in a motorcycle accident – "owned" the motorcycle in question and was therefore excluded from underinsured motorist ("UIM") coverage under three car insurances that Aslin had with Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. ( "Shelter"). On appeal, Aslin claims that he did not "own" the motorcycle in question under the Shelter policy, even though the parties agree that he had the title of the motorcycle.

Devan Aslin v. Shelter Mutual Insurance CoDevan Aslin v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. No. SD36528, Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District Division One (August 5, 2020)

FACTS

Aslin rode a 201

6 Harley Davidson motorcycle (to which he held title) when another vehicle hit him, causing a accident. Aslin filed a claim against the driver of that vehicle and settled with his insurance company for police boundaries.

Shelter issued three motor vehicle policies ("Policies") to Aslin, all of which included UIM coverage of $ 50,000 per person and $ 100,000 per accident, subject to designated exceptions.

Aslin filed a lawsuit against Shelter, claiming that Shelter owed him UIM coverage under the Policies. The policies all contained the same exclusion for vehicles "owned" by an insured. The relevant exclusion of the police, as applicable here, stated: "(2) If any part of the injuries resulted from bodily injury being suffered while insured was occupying a motor vehicle other than described auto owned by any insured spouse ] or a resident of all insured households. ]

After both parties submitted proposals for a brief judgment, the trial went in favor of Shelter.

In his sole reference to, Aslin claims that the court erred in finding that the exclusion of owned vehicles in the policy applied to Aslin because the definition of "own" in the policy did not apply to him, and that he was therefore liable for UIM coverage under Policies .

ANALYSIS

Aslin claimed that the trial erred in taking judgment in favor of Shelter because Aslin did not "own" the motorcycle as defined in their policy and therefore the exclusion of owned vehicles did not apply to him.

As relevant here, the policy defines "own" as: " means the person referred to has the legally recognized title of … the person in possession of the vehicle, if the person : (a) has the right to purchase it upon fulfillment of conditions set out in a conditional sales contract; (b) Does a lender have a right of possession on the basis of the terms of a loan secured by that vehicle; or (c) Does a lessor have a right of possession on the basis of a lease agreement on that vehicle. "

As our Supreme Court suggested in Seaton v . Shelter Mut . Ins . Co . 574 SW3d 245 (Mo. banc 2019): “ To“ own ”a motor vehicle, the person must only hold the title of it and can do so together with other owners. “Terms within an insurance policy do not become ambiguous simply because of the presence of an exclusion. The common language of insurance policies indicates that UIM coverage will not be provided for a relative who owns a motor vehicle. Seaton admitted that Decedent was the owner of a motor vehicle. Based on the common language of insurance policy, it

Aslin failed to show that the trial was wrong when he found that Aslin owned the motorcycle in question and was therefore excluded from UIM's coverage under the police.

The appellate court had no choice but to rule in favor of the insurer because its Supreme Court held that a person holding ownership of a vehicle owns it. Aslin prescribed that he held the title of Harley at the time of the accident. He was therefore the owner and the clear and unequivocal exclusion was applied.


© 2020 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to employment as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims management, bad faith insurance and insurance fraud almost equally for policyholders and policyholders. He also acts as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance-related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and attorney-at-law attorney and more than 52 years in the insurance industry. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and zalma@zalma.com.

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