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Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage and Stacking. § 32-7-23, Ala. Code 197

Mid-Century Insurance Co. v. Watts, [Ms. 1180852, Sept. 18, 2020] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2020). The Court (Bolin, J.; Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Sellers, Mendheim, and Mitchell, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., and Stewart J., dissent) grants a permissive interlocutory appeal (see Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P.) and reverses a judgment of the Talladega Circuit Court denying a motion by Mid-Century Insurance Company for partial summary judgment seeking to limit its liability for payment of uninsured-underinsured motorist benefits in claims arising from a single accident resulting in four deaths and five serious injuries. Mid-Century contended that § 32-7-23(c) and its policy’s UIM coverage provisions limited stacking to the limits of primary coverage and two additional coverages. The victims contended § 32-7-6(c) afforded greater coverage because five vehicles were insured, four persons were killed and five others seriously injured, such that coverage on a per person basis as required by this statute afforded coverages of $150,000.00 per person, for a total of $1,350,000.00.

Rejecting (Ms. **21-32) the victims’ contentions, the Court reads § 32-7-6(c), as incorporated by § 32-7-23(a), such that

Reading the phrases “subject to the limit for one person” and “bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident” in § 32-7-6(c) so as to give those words their “natural, plain, ordinary, and commonly understood meaning,” we conclude that, in those cases where two or more persons are injured or killed in a single accident, the per accident limit of liability contained in the policy is the proper coverage limit to be applied. The policy here contains a per accident limit of coverage as required by § 32-7-6(c). Because the accident made the basis of this UIM claim involved “two or more persons,” the per accident coverage limit of $100,000 found in the policy is applicable. Section 32-7-23(c) of the uninsured-motorist statute and § 2a.(2) of the insurance policy allow the Watts plaintiffs to “stack” the primary coverage of $100,000 for up to two additional coverages, or a total amount of $300,000 in UIM benefits.

Ms. **22-23 (emphasis in original). Accordingly, the trial court’s order denying Mid-Century’s motion for partial summary judgment is due to be reversed.

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