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Amica Mutual Insurance Company v. Piquette

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

September 19, 2017

AMICA MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
BRYAN PIQUETTE ET AL.

          Argued April 20, 2017

          Allan M. Rothenberg, with whom, on the brief, was P. Jo Anne Burgh, for the appellant (defendant Rebecca Piquette).

          Philip T. Newbury, Jr., with whom was Julia E. Lavine, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Sheldon, Beach and Harper, Js.

         Syllabus

         The plaintiff insurance company sought a declaratory judgment to determine the scope of coverage provided under an automobile insurance policy it had issued to the defendant B. The defendant P and his wife, the defendant R, previously had commenced a negligence action against B in connection with an automobile accident in which B's automobile collided with a motorcycle operate by P, pursuant to which P sought damages for bodily injury and R sought damages for loss of consortium. The declaration section of the insurance policy provided liability limits for bodily injury of a certain amount per person, and a separate limit per accident. R maintained that her loss of consortium claim should be considered separately from P's bodily injury claim for the purpose of the per person limitation. The plaintiff thereafter brought the present declaratory judgment action seeking a determination of the proper scope of coverage provided by the policy. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, and in support thereof, relied on Izzo v. Colonial Penn Ins. Co. (203 Conn. 305), which held that, under the terms of the insurance policy at issue in that case, an uninjured spouse's claim for loss of consortium is derivative of the injured spouse's claim for bodily injury and, therefore, does not trigger a separate per person limit under the terms of that policy. The trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which R appealed to this court. R claimed that Izzo was inapplicable because the policy language at issue here differed from that in Izzo and that any ambiguity should be construed in favor of coverage. Held that the trial court properly rendered summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff and correctly applied Izzo to the present case; although the policy here provided coverage for damages ‘‘arising out of'' bodily injury, whereas the policy at issue in Izzo provided coverage for damages ‘‘because of'' bodily injury, the slight differences in policy language between those policies did not create an ambiguity that required the policy in the present case to be construed against the plaintiff as the drafter, as both policies referred to claims that flow from and are derivative of the bodily injury sustained by another person, the derivative nature of the loss of consortium claim, which is inextricably attached to the claim of the injured spouse, required coverage under the same per person limitation as the injury from which it flowed under the policy language in the present case, and, therefore, in the absence of policy language providing per person coverage for a broader category of claims or expressly providing separate coverage for loss of consortium claims, R's claim for loss of consortium was encompassed in the per person liability limitation applicable to P's bodily injury claim from which it arose.

         Procedural History

         Action for a declaratory judgment to determine the scope of coverage under an automobile insurance policy for damages sustained by the named defendant et al. arising from an automobile accident involving the plaintiff's insured, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the court, Scholl, J., granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the defendant Rebecca Piquette appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          OPINION

          HARPER, J.

         The defendant Rebecca Piquette[1] appeals from the trial court's summary judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff, Amica Mutual Insurance Company, in this declaratory judgment action brought to determine the proper scope of coverage provided by an automobile insurance policy issued by the plaintiff. The critical question in this appeal is whether, under the terms of an automobile insurance contract providing coverage for bodily injury, a loss of consortium claim is entitled to a separate per person liability limitation from the principal bodily injury claim of another person from which the loss of consortium claim arises. The defendant argues that the trial court's ruling was improper because the language of the policy at issue is ambiguous and the matter should be remanded for further proceedings to determine the scope of the policy. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the resolution of this appeal is controlled by our Supreme Court's decision in Izzo v. Colonial Penn Ins. Co., 203 Conn. 305, 524 A.2d 641 (1987), and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court, which properly applied Izzo.

         The following undisputed facts and procedural history give rise to the present appeal. At all relevant times, an individual named Rebecca Bahre[2] was the holder of an automobile insurance policy issued by the plaintiff. The declaration section of this policy provided liability limits for bodily injury of $100, 000 per person and a total limit of $300, 000 per accident for bodily injury. The policy further provided that this limit of liability is the plaintiff's ‘‘maximum limit of liability for all damages including damages for care, loss of services or death, arising out of bodily injury sustained by any one person in any one auto accident.''

         On June 27, 2012, this policy was in effect when a vehicle operated by Bahre collided with a motorcycle operated by the defendant's husband, Bryan Piquette (husband). As a result of this collision, Piquette suffered physical injuries. The defendant was not present at the time of the collision and did not witness it. On July 23, 2013, by service of process, the defendant and her husband commenced an action against Bahre, raising claims for bodily injury suffered by the defendant's husband and for loss of consortium suffered by the defendant as a result of her husband's physical injuries. On December 4, 2013, Bahre, with her insurer, offered to settle all claims for a total sum of $100, 000, inclusive of all costs and interest. This amount represented the full per person limit of coverage for bodily injury. Through counsel, the defendant and her husband counter offered to settle the matter for a total sum of $200, 000. The counteroffer was based on the assertion that the defendant's loss of consortium claim was entitled to a separate per person limit of $100, 000 from the $100, 000 per person limit covering her husband's bodily injuries.

         Thereafter, the plaintiff commenced the present declaratory judgment action to determine the proper scope of coverage provided by the policy. The plaintiff asserted that a claim for loss of consortium is derivative of the bodily injury claim brought by the defendant's husband, who was directly and physically injured in the collision, and, therefore, the loss of consortium claim is not entitled to a separate per person limit of liability. Accordingly, the plaintiff asserted that its maximum liability under the policy for the defendant's loss of consortium claim and her husband's corresponding bodily injury claim was a total of $100, 000.

         On July 29, 2015, the plaintiff moved for summary judgment on the ground that there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding the scope of the policy under its unambiguous terms, and that the plaintiff was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The plaintiff relied on Izzo v. Colonial Penn Ins. Co., supra, 203 Conn. 305, which held that, under the terms of the insurance policy at issue in that case, an uninjured spouse's claim for loss of consortium is derivative of the injured spouse's claim for bodily injury, and, therefore, does not trigger a separate per person limit under the terms of that policy. The plaintiff argued that the policy language in the present case is substantially the same as that presented in Izzo, and, accordingly, that Izzo was ...


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