MICHELLE GUARINO, ADMINISTRATRIX (ESTATE OF GEORGETTE DUFRESNE) v. ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, SC 19168

Judicial District of Middlesex

 

†††† †Insurance; Whether Plaintiff Entitled to Underinsured Motorist Benefits Where she had Received Settlement Payments from Tortfeasors that Exceeded the Policy Limits for Underinsured Motorist Coverage.† In 2007, the plaintiffís decedent was killed in a motor vehicle accident.† After the plaintiff brought actions against the two tortfeasors who allegedly caused the accident, she settled all of her claims against them in exchange for payments totaling $245,000.† She also brought the present action against the defendant insurance company, seeking underinsured motorist benefits pursuant to the decedentís automobile insurance policy that was issued by the defendant.† The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff was not entitled to any insurance benefits because she had already recovered from the tortfeasors $245,000, which exceeded the decedentís $100,000 policy limit for underinsured motorist coverage.† In advancing this contention, the defendant relied upon a provision in the policy stating that the coverage limit would be reduced by ďall amounts paid by or on behalf of the owner or operator of the . . . underinsured auto or anyone else responsible.Ē †The trial court agreed with the defendant and granted the motion for summary judgment.† The plaintiff appealed, claiming that, because she had settled her claims with the tortfeasors, a factfinder had never been called upon to apportion liability between the tortfeasors.† She maintained that, in the absence of any findings regarding the apportionment of liability, there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to who was truly ďresponsibleĒ for the decedentís death under the policy.† The Appellate Court (142 Conn. App. 603) disagreed, finding that, even where there has been no finding of liability, an insurer may nonetheless reduce an insuredís underinsured motorist coverage limits by the amounts received from the tortfeasors pursuant to a settlement.† The court reasoned that allowing such a reduction is consistent with the principle that underinsured motorist policies are intended to provide a minimum level of protection and that underinsured motorist coverage need not be made available when an insured is otherwise protected.† In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court properly granted the defendantís motion for summary judgment.