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Injured plaintiff denied insurance policy double dipping


Plaintiffs in a personal injury case cannot collect from two policies under the policies' anti-stacking provisions, says an appeals court, in affirming a lower court ruling.

In January 2012, Thomas Campbell attempted to remove a tree from a property being developed for a residential subdivision in Waynesville, Missouri, according to documents filed with the district court, and the tree fell on John Gohagan, who suffered serious injuries as a result, according to Wednesday's ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in John Gohagan; Jessica Gohagan v. The Cincinnati Insurance Co.

Mr. Gohagan and his wife filed suit against Mr. Campbell and reached a settlement that included a payment by Cincinnati Insurance Co., a unit of Fairfield, Ohio-based Cincinnati Financial Corp., of the $1 million per occurrence limit under the commercial general liability policy held by Mr. Campbell and his wife.

However, the Gohagans filed suit seeking payment of another $1 million under the Campbells' business owners package, which was also issued by Cincinnati.

The federal District Court in Springfield, Missouri, dismissed the case, holding that the language of the BOP and CGL policies prohibited stacking coverage when both policies covered the same injury, and a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously agreed.

The policies' anti-stacking provisions are unambiguous, said the appeals court. The Gohagans “ignore the stipulation that the aggregate maximum limit 'shall not exceed the highest applicable limit of insurance under any one policy,' ” said the ruling.

“Thus the aggregate maximum limit of insurance under both policies combined may not exceed the each-occurrence limit under either policy — in this case $1 million.” Therefore, the Gohagans “received the full amount of coverage owed to them under the BOP and CGL policies when Cincinnati paid them the $1 million pursuant to the CGL policy,” said the ruling in affirming the case's dismissal.

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