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Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Anderson

Supreme Court of Florida

March 23, 2000, Decided

No. SC95337

Opinion

 [*31]  PARIENTE, J.

We have for review a question of Florida law certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Anderson v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co., 172 F.3d 767, 770 (11th Cir. 1999), which is determinative of a cause pending in that court and for which there appears to be no controlling precedent. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(6), Fla. Const. We rephrase the compound certified question 1 as two separate questions:  [**2]  

I.  BASED ON THE APPLICABLE INSURANCE POLICY LANGUAGE, SHOULD THE TRACTOR AND TRAILER EACH BE TREATED AS A SINGLE COVERED AUTOMOBILE?

II.  IF THE TRACTOR AND TRAILER SHOULD EACH BE TREATED AS A SINGLE COVERED AUTOMOBILE, DOES THE APPLICABLE POLICY LANGUAGE UNAMBIGUOUSLY LIMIT COVERAGE TO A TOTAL OF $ 750,000, EVEN WHEN MULTIPLE INSURED VEHICLES ARE INVOLVED IN A SINGLE ACCIDENT?

See Anderson, 172 F.3d at 770. We answer the first rephrased certified question in the affirmative and the second rephrased certified question in the negative.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PERTINENT POLICY PROVISIONS

The pertinent facts of the automobile accident that gave rise to the present case are set forth in the Eleventh Circuit's opinion:

On December 7, 1996, appellant Karen Anderson was a passenger in a Mazda Miata convertible automobile traveling southbound in the left lane of Interstate 75. A tractor-trailer rig, comprised of a 1987 [W]hite tractor and a 1986 Great Dane commercial trailer, was also traveling southbound in the left lane. The Miata pulled into the right lane in order to pass the tractor-trailer rig, but while passing, the rig moved into the right lane.  [**3]  To avoid a collision, the Miata swerved off the highway and overturned. Anderson sustained severe injuries.

Craig Bishop owned both the tractor and trailer, and insured both through Auto-Owner's Insurance Company (Auto-Owner's), under the same policy.

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756 So. 2d 29 *; 2000 Fla. LEXIS 629 **; 25 Fla. L. Weekly D 211; 25 Fla. L. Weekly S 211

AUTO-OWNERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Petitioner, vs. KAREN ANDERSON, Respondent.

Prior History:   [**1]  Certified Question of Law from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit - Case No. 97-3270.

CORE TERMS

coverage, trailer, tractor, insured, premiums, limitation of liability, liability coverage, Declarations, stacking, insured vehicle, occurrence, rig, damages, policy language, single accident, insurance policy, certified question, district court, anti-stacking, ambiguous, rephrased, Combined, clauses, tandem, cases, truck, covered automobile, bodily injury, majority opinion, stand alone

Insurance Law, Claim, Contract & Practice Issues, Policy Interpretation, Plain Language, Ambiguous Terms, General Overview, Unambiguous Terms, Estoppel & Waiver, Contracts Law, Defenses, Ambiguities & Mistakes, Coverage Favored, Construction Against Insurers, Exclusions, Motor Vehicle Insurance, Stacking Provisions, Antistacking Clauses