Progressive Casualty Insurance Co.
James S. Dias et al.
County No. (PC 13-4560) Superior Court Richard A. Licht,
Plaintiff: Gregory A. Carrara, Esq. Hillary J. Giles, Esq.
Defendants: Richard I. Abrams, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Francis X. Flaherty, Associate Justice
called upon to determine the meaning of the term "same
insurance company" under G.L. 1956 § 27-7-2.1(i).
The defendants, James S. Dias and Sarina M. Dunham, appeal
from the Superior Court's grant of summary judgment in
favor of the plaintiff, Progressive Casualty Insurance Co.
Dias suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident and
sought to recover underinsured-motorist benefits from the
plaintiff, asserting that he was entitled to those benefits
pursuant to § 27-7-2.1(i). On appeal, the defendants
argue that summary judgment was granted in error because
material issues of fact remained in dispute. Moreover, the
defendants contend that the hearing justice incorrectly
determined that the plaintiff and another company,
Progressive Northern Insurance Co., are not the same
insurance company for the purposes of applying §
case came before us for oral argument on November 30, 2016.
After carefully considering the record, the parties'
written and oral arguments, as well as the thoughtful brief
of the amicus,  we affirm the
Superior Court's ruling.
September 22, 2012, Dias was seriously injured when a car
struck him while he was operating a motorcycle that was
registered to his wife, Dunham. At the time of the accident,
defendants were insured under two policies issued by
companies bearing the "Progressive" label. One
policy, which Progressive Northern underwrote, covered the
motorcycle that defendant was operating when he was injured.
The second policy, underwritten by plaintiff, Progressive
Casualty, covered defendants' automobiles. After the
accident, Dias settled a bodily injury claim for the
tortfeasor's automobile insurance policy limit. Because
the amount of that settlement was less than the reasonable
amount required to compensate him for his injuries, Dias then
made and settled an uninsured-motorist claim against
Progressive Northern, also for the policy limit.
believing himself to be entitled to further compensation
because of the extent of his injuries, Dias then filed a
claim with plaintiff for underinsured-motorist benefits under
the terms of their automobile policy. The plaintiff denied coverage, asserting
that the automobile policy did not provide coverage for the
injuries Dias sustained while he was riding the motorcycle
because the insurance contract contained an
"owned-but-not-insured clause" that barred recovery. The defendants do
not contest the clarity of this exclusion. Instead, they
argue that, because they had two separate policies with
Progressive labeled insurance companies, plaintiff must cover
Dias' injuries and that the owned-but-not-insured clause
is preempted by § 27-7-2.1(i). That statute mandates
that, when an insured has multiple uninsured/underinsured
policies "with the same insurance company, the insured
shall be permitted to collect up to the aggregate amount of
coverage for all the vehicles insured, regardless of any
language in the policy to the contrary." Id.
The defendants maintain that plaintiff, Progressive Casualty,
and Progressive Northern are each part of the same company:
The Progressive Corporation.
response to the claim that Dias brought against it under the
policy, plaintiff filed a declaratory-judgment action,
requesting that the Superior Court declare that §
27-7-2.1(i) is not applicable because "Progressive
Northern Insurance Co. is a completely separate and distinct
corporation and business entity from [plaintiff, ]
Progressive Casualty Insurance Co., " and that,
consequently, plaintiff may disclaim coverage with respect to
Dias' claim for underinsured-motorist
benefits. After nearly one year had
elapsed, and after discovery had been initiated, plaintiff
moved for summary judgment. After considering each
party's written and oral arguments, the hearing justice
ruled that plaintiff and Progressive Northern "are
distinct entities, " and he granted plaintiff's
motion. The defendants timely appealed to this Court.