and County of Denver District Court No. 15CV32100 Honorable
Elizabeth A. Starrs, Judge
REVERSED AND CASE REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS
Franklin D. Azar & Associates, William C. Marlin, Peter
J. McCaffrey, Aurora, Colorado, for Plaintiffs-Appellants
Patterson & Salg, P.C., Franklin D. Patterson, Karl S.
Chambers, Greenwood Village, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee
1 Neill Smith suffered serious injuries when he was skewered
by hay spears attached to a farm tractor driven by Robert
Bunker. The district court dismissed the complaint he and his
wife, Bliss Bishop, filed against State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Company, concluding that the tractor was
not a covered motor vehicle under their State Farm insurance
policy. Mr. Smith now asks us to undo that ruling.
The question before us then is whether State Farm's
underinsured motorist (UIM) provision provides coverage to
Mr. Smith for bodily injury sustained in an automobile
accident with a farm tractor. We conclude that it does, and
so we reverse the judgment dismissing the complaint and
remand the case for further proceedings.
2 It happened on a county road in Moffat, Colorado. Mr.
Bunker was driving a John Deere tractor (the tractor) when he
collided with Mr. Smith's truck. The hay spears attached
to the tractor pierced the truck and impaled Mr. Smith,
leaving him seriously injured. Mr. Bunker later pleaded
guilty to careless driving. Mr. Smith settled his claim
against Mr. Bunker for Mr. Bunker's liability policy
limits. This amount, however, did not fully compensate Mr.
Smith for his injuries, according to Mr. Smith.
3 But Mr. Smith had UIM coverage with State Farm. So, he
filed a claim with State Farm for UIM benefits. Taking the
position that a farm tractor is not a motor vehicle, State
Farm denied coverage.
4 Unsurprisingly, Mr. Smith sued State Farm, asserting claims
for breach of contract, bad faith breach of an insurance
contract, and improper denial of an insurance claim. State
Farm moved the court to determine as a matter of law that the
tractor is not a motor vehicle under the policy's UIM
coverage provision. The court granted the motion, finding
that the tractor "is not a covered motor vehicle for
purposes of . . . [the] UIM coverage policy." It then
dismissed the complaint.
Standard of Review and Principles of Interpretation
5 We review de novo a district court's order determining
a question of law under C.R.C.P. 56(h). Patterson v. BP
Am. Prod. Co., 2015 COA 28, ¶ 20. The
interpretation of an insurance policy is also reviewed de
novo. Grippin v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.,
2016 COA 127, ¶ 9.
6 An insurance policy is a contract, and it is interpreted
like any contract. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Huizar, 52
P.3d 816, 819 (Colo. 2002). This means it is our job to
determine and give effect to the parties' intent,
"and, when possible, the parties' intent should be
determined by the language of the policy alone." Mt.
Hawley Ins. Co. v. Casson Duncan Constr., Inc., 2016 COA
164, ¶ 12.
7 Unless defined, we give a policy's words their plain
meaning and construe the terms "as they would be
understood by a person of ordinary intelligence."
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Nissen, 851 P.2d
165, 167 (Colo. 1993); see also Huizar, 52 P.3d at
819. We will enforce the policy as written, unless there is
an ambiguity in the policy language. State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co. v. Stein, 940 P.2d 384, 387 (Colo. 1997).
A term in an insurance policy is ambiguous if, on its face,
it is susceptible of more than one reasonable interpretation.
Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Hansen, 2016 CO 46,
¶ 24. If ...