Illinois Appellate Courts Holds that Umbrella Policies not Required by Either Public Policy or Statutory Requirement to Provide Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Mei Pang was a passenger in a car driven by Ingrid Chan in January 2002 when a crash occurred between Chan’s car and another vehicle driven by Donald McGinnis. Pang was injured severely. McGinnis’s insurer paid Pang $100,000 to settle her personal injury lawsuit and claim.

Chan was insured by Farmers Insurance Group. Chan and her husband had a special “umbrella policy.” The umbrella policy covered the named insureds (the Chans themselves), any relatives of the Chans by blood, marriage or adoption or any person under 21 in the care of the named insured.

On Jan. 7, 2010, Pang filed a complaint for underinsured motorist coverage seeking coverage both from Farmers under the Chan umbrella policy and also from Mid-Century Insurance Co., which issued the Chans their primary auto insurance policy.

Mid-Century immediately settled with Pang for $150,000, which was the underinsurance provided under Chan’s policy that covered Pang because her injuries were significant enough to surpass the $100,000 she already received from McGinnis under his auto policy. Farmers responded by arguing that Pang was not covered by the Chan umbrella policy and filed a countersuit for declaratory judgment, requesting that the court declare that Pang was not covered.

Pang argued that as a “permissive passenger,” she was entitled to underinsured motorist coverage under the law. She filed an amended complaint clarifying her position.

In addition, an issue arose with Chan’s insurance policy, as no copy of the original document was retained by either the Chans or Farmers. Farmers instead “reconstructed” the insurance policy document, a practice the appellate court characterized as a “common practice in insurance disputes.”

In addition, Pang alleged that this reconstructed document was not an accurate version of the original policy, but Pang failed to produce any evidence supporting that claim. On Feb. 18, 2011, Farmers moved to dismiss Pang’s complaint, arguing that because she was not within the umbrella policy’s definition of an insured, her claim was defeated. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claim. Pang appealed.

Pang argued that Illinois insurance law required bodily injury insurance policies to provide underinsured motorist insurance. Farmers agreed that auto insurance was required to do so but clarified that the umbrella policy was not an automobile insurance policy, and so it was not bound by the same restrictions.

According to Farmers, umbrella coverage may include underinsurance motorist coverage, but there is no requirement that it do so. The policy in question did not provide such coverage.

The appeals panel acknowledged that primary auto policies were required to cover underinsured motorists. But Pang was unable to cite a case in which an umbrella policy was required to have underinsured motorist insurance. Not only did the court find no precedent, but it also found that the public policy arguments that were the reason primary automobile insurance required underinsured motorist insurance were not validated in the case of umbrella coverage.

Neither public policy nor the minimum statutory requirements of insurance law required an umbrella policy to cover Pang. Pang was also noted to have failed to cite a statute or relevant case law sufficient to support her argument. The court found that Pang had failed to cite appropriate case law and legal authority that made her appellate briefs deficient. For these reasons, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial judge.

Mei Pang v. Farmers Insurance Group, 2014 IL App (1st) 123204, May 1, 2014.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident cases, trucking accident claims, underinsured motorist claims and bicycle accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Palos Heights, Alsip, Crestwood, Evergreen Park, Elk Grove Village, Stickney, Countryside, Country Club Hills, Northlake, Winnetka, Waukegan, Joliet, Aurora, St. Charles, Geneva, Naperville, Rolling Meadows, Villa Park3 and Arlington Heights, Ill.

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