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Motorcycle Driver Settles With Commercial Driver and Pursues Underinsured Motorist Coverage Stacking Against State Farm

July 2012

Total Value: $860,000

Breakdown: $750,000 from The Comfort Center and John Nattier on liability claim; $110,000 from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance on underinsured motorist coverage.

Verdict/Settlement Date: July 12, 2012

Type of Action: Motorcycle Accident

Court: Buchanan County Circuit Court

Case: 12BU-CV00353

Caption: Danny Claycomb v. The Comfort Center, LLC and John Nattier

Judge: Randall Jackson

Injuries: Right-arm/elbow fracture, left wrist fracture, biceps tendon injury, rotator cuff tear, left hip fracture.

Attorney for Plaintiff: James Montee, Montee Law Firm, P.C. (St. Joseph, MO)

Attorneys for Defendant: Russell Walters, Timothy Wolf, Patrick Cody, Brown & James, P.C. (St. Louis, MO) for defendants The Comfort Center and John Nattier; James Sanders, Wallace, Saunders, Austin, Brown & Enochs (Kansas City, MO) for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Insurance Companies: Farmers Insurance Group for defendants The Comfort Center and John Nattier; State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company for underinsured motorist coverage.

St. Joseph, Missouri auto accident attorney, James Montee has reached a settlement on behalf of his client for injuries received in an Andrew County, Missouri automobile accident.

On August 24, 2011, motorcyclist Danny Claycomb, age 58, suffered serious injuries when he was struck by a Chevy van operated by a swimming pool construction worker. Claycomb was riding his 1984 Moto Guzzi on Route K in rural Andrew County when John Nattier, driving a 2005 Chevy Astro van, made a left turn into the path of Claycomb. At the time of the accident, Nattier was in the course and scope of his employment with The Comfort Center, a swimming pool builder in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Claycomb suffered multiple fractures to his right arm, left wrist and hip. Claycomb initially filed suit against Nattier and his employer in Andrew County and upon a change of venue, the case was moved to Buchanan County. Claycomb settled for the $750,000 policy limits from the commercial policy of Farmer’s Insurance which provided coverage on The Comfort Center Chevy van.

Claycomb next proceeded to make claims against the underinsured motorist policies covering his personally-owned motorcycles and other household vehicles. At the time of his motorcycle accident, Claycomb’s Moto Guzzi motorcycle was covered by UIM limits of $25,000 from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Claycomb also had five additional policies issued by State Farm covering four separate automobiles (UIM limits of $50,000 on two policies and $100,000 on two policies) and one additional motorcycle policy with UIM limits of $25,000.

State Farm Insurance agreed to pay the UIM policy with the highest limits of UIM liability coverage and advanced payment of $100,000. Claycomb continued to argue for the stacking of the UIM coverage from the remaining policies. State Farm denied the UIM stacking on the basis that their antistacking provisions of UIM coverage have recently been upheld in Buettner v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, 210 S.W.3d 363 (Mo. App. 2006); Lee v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 2011 WL 5983370, 2 W.D. Mo. 2011; Taylor v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co., 2012 WL 538960 (Mo. App. W.D. Feb. 21, 2012); and Ballard v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 2012 W.L. 1085489 (E.D. Mo. March 30, 2012). Claycomb attempted to distinguish his claim by relying on the varying definitions of the term “motor vehicle” in the automobile and motorcycle policies. The endorsement for the motorcycle policies limited the term motor vehicle to vehicles with only 2 or 3 wheels in tandem; the automobile policies defined a motor vehicle as a vehicle with a minimum of four wheels. Claycomb alleged this created confusion and ambiguity which carried over to the anti-stacking provisions.

State Farm removed the coverage dispute to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. State Farm filed its motion for summary judgment and, after mediation, State Farm and Claycomb agreed to a settlement for an additional payment of $10,000. Claycomb’s combined recoveries against Nattier, Comfort Center and State Farm totaled $860,000.

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