from the Superior Court No. 4FA-15-02904 CI of the State of
Alaska, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Michael A.
Merdes, Merdes Law Office, P.C., Fairbanks, for Appellant.
Clayton, Jr. and Ryan Thomas Bravo, Clayton & Diemer,
LLC, Anchorage, for Appellee.
Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, Bolger, and
Insurance Company denied underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage
to Nathan Ball for an accident involving his own vehicle
after determining he was not an insured person under his
then-fiancee's parents' Allstate automobile insurance
policy. Ball contended that his fiancee was a
"policyholder" for purposes ofher parents'
policy, a necessary predicate to his argument for UIM
coverage under the policy. But the policy declarations page
did not list "policyholders," it listed only
"named insureds" and "drivers." The
superior court ruled on summary judgment that the policy
language was not ambiguous because "policyholder"
referred only to the parents, the "named insureds,"
that the fiancee - only a listed driver - had no objectively
reasonable expectation that she was a policyholder, and,
therefore, that Allstate did not have a duty to provide Ball
UIM coverage. We agree that "policyholder"
encompasses only the named insureds, not listed drivers, and
we therefore affirm the superior court's decision.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
September 2012 Allstate delivered an automobile insurance
policy renewal to Richard and Kathryn Davis at their address
in Tok, incorporating changes they had requested to the
policy. The policy listed "Richard & Kathryn
Davis" as the "NAMED INSURED(S)" and
"Richard" and "Kathryn," as well as
"Vivian," the couple's adult daughter, as
"DRIVER(S)." (Emphases omitted.)
in December Vivian and her then-fiance, Nathan Ball, were
driving two of Ball's vehicles; the vehicle Ball was
driving stalled. Vivian backed the vehicle she was driving to
the front of the stalled vehicle so that Ball could attach a
tow chain. While Ball was positioned between the two
vehicles, a third party drove into the back of the stalled
vehicle; Ball was seriously injured.
made successful claims under the third party's liability
insurance coverage, under his own liability insurance
coverage protecting Vivian, and under his own UIM insurance
coverage. Ball also made a claim under the UIM provision of
the Davises' Allstate policy.
Allstate UIM provision states Allstate "will pay all
damages, other than punitive or exemplary damages, that an
insured person is legally entitled to recover from the owner
or operator of an uninsured or underinsured auto because
of... bodily injury sustained by an insured person."
(Emphasis omitted.) The policy defines "[i]nsured
[p]ersons" as "[y]ou and any resident
relative" or "[a]ny person while in, on, getting
into or out of your insured auto with your permission,"
(emphases omitted) and defines "insured auto" to
include a motor vehicle "not owned by you or a resident
relative if being operated by you with the owner's
permission." (Emphases omitted.) The policy defines
"[y]ou" or "[y]our" as "the
policyholder named on the Policy Declarations and that
policyholder's resident spouse." (Emphases omitted.)
denied coverage for Ball's claim. Allstate contended that
Ball did not qualify as an insured person under the
Davises' policy because "[n]one of the definitions
of' [i]nsured [p]ersons' appli[ed] to [Ball's]
status at the time of the accident." Allstate explained
that Ball was "neither a policyholder of the Davis
policy, nor a resident relative in the Davis household,"
that "[t]he two people defined as 'you' [and
thus policyholders] are Richard and Kathryn Davis," and
that the car Vivian was driving at the time of the incident
was owned by Ball and thus a non-owned auto under the
subsequently filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment
that it had no duty under the terms of the policy to make any
payment to Ball for his UIM claim, and it then moved for
partial summary judgment. Allstate argued Ball was not an
insured under the policy because the policy language and
cases considering similar language established that Vivian-a
listed permissive driver-did not meet the policy definition
of "you" and Ball's vehicle did not meet the
definition of "your insured auto." Ball's
opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment argued that
the policy was ambiguous because it defined "you"
as "the policyholder named on the Policy
Declarations" but failed to name a policyholder on that
page, instead listing "named insureds" and
"drivers." Ball contended there was a reasonable
expectation that the policy should be construed in favor of
coverage because Vivian submitted an affidavit stating she
believed she was a policyholder.
superior court granted Allstate's motion and denied
Ball's cross-motion. The court determined the policy
language was not ambiguous because "policyholder"
referred only to the named insureds - Richard and Kathryn -
not to listed drivers, and Vivian did not have an objectively
reasonable expectation that she was a policyholder.
filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that the court
unnecessarily based its decision on "whether Vivian can
be reasonably identified as a 'Policyholder'"
because the policy did not define the term and Vivian had a
reasonable expectation that she was a policyholder. The court
denied Ball's motion, holding Ball's interpretation
of "policyholder" was not reasonable and finding
Ball failed to "raise any material facts or propositions
of law that change the [court's] analysis."
appeals, arguing the superior court erred in granting summary
judgment because "policyholder" is ambiguous and
Vivian had an objectively reasonable ...