Opinion:Coates v. Progressive Direct Insurance Co., 2022 OK 45
Subject matter:Insurance 
Date Decided:May 3, 2022
Trial Court:District Court of Kay County; Judge Turner
Route to this Court:Appeal from Order Granting Summary Judgment; Retained
Facts:Plaintiff insured his motorcycle through Progressive but did not have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist benefits with his motorcycle plan. But he did have UM under his truck plan. Plaintiff was involved in a motorcycle accident. Plaintiff submitted claims for UM coverage benefits to Progressive under both policies. Progressive rejected the UM claim brought under the truck’s policy. Plaintiff filed suit against Progressive for breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiff then filed a motion for partial summary judgment regarding his entitlement to UM benefits from Progressive. Progressive filed a motion for summary judgment on both Plaintiffs’ breach of contract and bad faith claims. Plaintiff asked the trial court for more time to respond to Progressive’s motion to conduct further discovery. The trial court granted Plaintiffs’ partial motion for summary judgment. The trial court on a later date, denied Plaintiffs’ motion for more time to respond, granted Progressive’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of good faith and fair dealing and denied any pending motions as moot.
Standard of Review:Because summary judgment deals primarily with a matter of law, the question before the Court is a matter of law, and it is reviewed de novo. 
Analysis:When interpreting automobile insurance contracts, the court strives to strike a balance between freedom of contract principles and the state’s interest in protecting the public.” Ball v. Wilshire Ins. Co., 2009 OK 38, ¶ 27. The Court determines whether a provision “clearly tends to injure public health, morals or confidence in the administration of law, or if it undermines the security of individual rights with respect to either personal liability or private property.” Id. UM coverage is separate and distinct from liability coverage. Lane v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co., 2021 OK 40, ¶ 10. It covers people, not vehicles.  Morris v. America First Ins. Co., 2010 OK 35, ¶ 10. Liability and UM may be bought together, but they do not run together. Even though Plaintiff did not buy UM with the motorcycle plan, he is entitled to it because he bought it with the truck’s plan, and the UM stays with him as a person. 

Progressive bases its denial of the UM claim on its Auto Policy, which effectively determines that UM coverage follows the vehicle and not the person. This is contrary to the law. Plaintiff would be entitled to benefits from his UM coverage had he been hit by an underinsured motorist while walking, parked in a parking lot, or sitting on his porch. The logic should not change just because he is on his motorcycle. Trial court abused its discretion in granting summary judgment and denying the discovery. 
Outcome:Affirmed in Part; Reversed in Part
Vote:5-4. Concur: Kauger, Edmondson, Combs, Gurich and Kuehn, JJ.(author). Concur in Part and Dissent in Part: Darby, C.J., and Winchester (by separate opinion) and Rowe, JJ. Dissent: Kane, V.C.J. (by separate opinion)
Other: J. Winchester concurs with the decision that Plaintiff should receive UM Benefits, but dissents to the reversal of summary judgment because there was no controlling law on the bad faith issue, so Progressive had a “good faith belief” that it was justified in withholding the UM benefits. 

V.C.J. Kane’s dissent focuses on the good faith belief as well, as he believes the UM issue should be decided differently because Plaintiff had the option to buy UM when he bought the motorcycle. The result “does not place the insured in the same position as he would have been in if the negligent uninsured motorist had complied with Oklahoma laws concerning financial responsibility. Instead, it gives the insured a loophole to seek UM benefits for which the insured has not paid.”