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Massey v. Allstate Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

May 24, 2017

MASSEY
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY.

          DOYLE, C. J., MILLER, P. J., and REESE, J.

          Miller, Presiding Judge.

         Plaintiff Jody Massey appeals from the trial court's order granting summary judgment to Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") on her claim for uninsured / underinsured motorist ("UM") coverage under her umbrella policy with Allstate.[1]Massey contends on appeal that the trial court erred when it ruled that her Allstate umbrella policy did not include UM coverage at the time of the accident at issue in this case. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

         "Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We review a trial court's grant of summary judgment de novo, construing the evidence, and all reasonable conclusions and inferences drawn from it, in favor of the nonmovant." (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Thomas v. Summers, 329 Ga.App. 250, 250 (764 S.E.2d 578) (2014); see also OCGA § 9-11-56 (c).

         So viewed, the evidence shows that Massey suffered several injuries when a truck being driven by Brett Pruitt collided with a car being driven by Massey on June 11, 2012. In May 2014, she filed this action against Pruitt, seeking monetary damages for her injuries. Massey subsequently settled with Pruitt in exchange for $100, 000, the limits of his automobile insurance policy. Massey then amended her complaint to add a claim for a declaratory judgment to establish UM coverage and limits under both her primary automobile and umbrella policies with Allstate. Massey later settled her primary automobile policy claim with Allstate for the UM coverage limits of $100, 000.

         Following discovery, Allstate moved for summary judgment on Massey's claim under her umbrella policy, asserting that the policy had ceased to include UM coverage in June 2010. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment to Allstate. This appeal followed.

         1.

         Massey challenges the trial court's determination that her Allstate umbrella policy did not include UM coverage at the time of her accident with Pruitt. She contends that the trial court erred when it ruled that (a) Georgia's automobile policy non-renewal statute, OCGA § 33-24-45, does not apply to umbrella policies that include automobile coverage, and (b) as a result, Allstate was not required to comply with the statute's non-renewal notice requirements when, in 2010, it purportedly cancelled the UM coverage previously included in Massey's umbrella policy.[2] We agree.

         In June 2009, Allstate issued primary automobile and umbrella insurance policies to Massey. The umbrella policy included both excess liability coverage of $5, 000, 000 per occurrence and UM coverage of $5, 000, 000 per accident.[3] Separate premiums were assessed for each type of coverage. In May 2010, Allstate renewed Massey's umbrella policy for one year, effective June 30, 2010. The 2010 renewal documents again included excess liability coverage of $5, 000, 000 per occurrence, for which a premium was assessed. The documents indicated, however, that the policy no longer included UM coverage and, accordingly, did not assess a separate premium for such coverage. A subsequent notice dated June 2, 2010, indicated that Massey's excess liability limits had been reduced to $1, 000, 000 per occurrence and again included no UM coverage.[4] The 2011 umbrella policy renewal documents, which covered the time period in which the accident at issue occurred, similarly listed Massey's excess liability limits as $1, 000, 000 per occurrence and again included no UM coverage.

         The primary dispute in this case centers on whether Allstate properly cancelled the UM coverage it previously had provided under Massey's umbrella policy when it allegedly mailed a notice to her in May 2010 indicating that it was not renewing the UM coverage.[5] To answer this question, we first must determine whether OCGA § 33-24-45 - which contains the requirements with which an insurer must comply to effectively cancel or refuse to renew automobile policy coverages - applies to Massey's umbrella policy with Allstate. If so, we then must consider whether Allstate properly complied with the statutory requirements when it purported to cancel the UM coverage previously included in that policy. We address each question in turn.

         a. Application of OCGA § 33-24-45 to Massey's umbrella policy

         Massey maintains that OCGA § 33-24-45 governs her umbrella policy, while Allstate contends that the statute applies only to primary automobile policies and not to umbrella policies.

         The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which we review de novo. Hill v. First Atlantic Bank, 323 Ga.App. 731, 732 (747 S.E.2d 892) (2013). "When we consider the meaning of a statute, we must presume that the General Assembly meant what it said and said what it meant." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Deal v. Coleman, 294 Ga. 170, 172 (1) (a) (751 S.E.2d 337) (2013). "[T]he cardinal rule is to glean the intent of the legislature in the light of the legislative intent as found in the statute as a whole." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Abrohams v. Atlantic Mut. Ins. Agency, 282 Ga.App. 176, 178 (1) (638 S.E.2d 330) (2006). In doing so, we "follow the literal language of the statute unless it produces contradiction, absurdity, or such an inconvenience as to ensure that the legislature meant something else. Absent clear evidence that a contrary meaning was intended by the legislature, we assign words in a statute their ordinary, logical, and common meanings." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Turner v. Ga. River Network, 297 Ga. 306, 308 (773 S.E.2d 706) (2015).

         With these broad canons of statutory construction in mind, we note that statutes governing UM insurance "are remedial in nature and must be broadly construed to accomplish the legislative purpose." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Abrohams, supra, 282 Ga.App. at 178 (1). Further, "provisions in insurance policies that conflict with the plain terms of Georgia's ...


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