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Mullen v. Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Co.

2021 COA 149. No. 20CA1357.  Automobile Insurance—Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage—Notice.

December 16, 2021


In May 2010, Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Co. (Metropolitan) issued a Colorado automobile insurance policy (policy) to Edward and Margaret Mullen as the named insureds. The policy carried liability limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident for bodily injury or death, and limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident for uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. Metropolitan sent the Mullens a package of materials related to their new policy, including a “Colorado Uninsured Motorists Coverage Selection Form” (selection form). Edward completed and signed the selection form, selecting UM/UIM coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Edward died in November 2010. Each year between 2011 and 2018, the policy was renewed with liability limits of $100,000/$300,000 and UM/UIM coverage limits of $25,000/$50,000. Margaret never requested an increase in her UM/UIM coverage.

In 2018, Margaret was in a motor vehicle collision with an underinsured motorist and suffered serious injuries. Metropolitan issued Margaret a $25,000 check as payment of the maximum UM/UIM benefits under the policy. Because Margaret’s damages exceeded the $25,000 payment, she filed the underlying declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that the UM/UIM selection form Edward signed and returned to Metropolitan was ineffective to reduce her UM/UIM coverage. The district court granted Metropolitan’s motion for summary judgment and denied Margaret’s motion for summary judgment.

The question on appeal was whether Metropolitan discharged its duty to notify the Mullins of the opportunity to purchase UM/UIM coverage in a manner reasonably calculated to permit them to make an informed decision on whether to purchase UM/UIM coverage higher than the minimum statutory liability limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Here, the selection form set forth an inaccurate statement of the law that incorrectly suggested that UM/UIM coverage would not be available if an underinsured motorist’s liability limits were the same as or greater than the insured’s UM/UIM limits. Further, the information in the selection form regarding available levels of coverage and related premiums was confusing. Accordingly, the district court erred by granting Metropolitan’s motion for summary judgment and denying Margaret’s motion for summary judgment.

The summary judgment in favor of Metropolitan was reversed and the case was remanded with directions to enter summary judgment in favor of Margaret.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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