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GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INS. CO. v. ROBERT BROWN AND PEGGY ANN BROWN

FEBRUARY 08, 1984

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INS. CO.
v.
ROBERT BROWN AND PEGGY ANN BROWN



BEFORE WALKER, BOWLING AND PRATHER

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Mississippi Supreme Court Rule 46 *fn1 provides for certification of unsettled substantive questions of Mississippi law from certain federal courts when the answer will determine the litigation in the federal forum. Such certification procedure permits this Court to render a definitive opinion and provide a controlling precedent for the federal litigation on questions of substantive Mississippi law.

This case was certified to this Court by the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit to define and construe the" limits of liability "clause under uninsured motorist coverage of motor vehicle liability policy. See Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Brown, No. 81-4241 (5th. Cir. May 3, 1982).

 The certified question of unsettled law is whether the language contained in this specific Government Employees Insurance Company policy under the" limits of liability "clause is sufficiently clear and unambiguous to prevent the aggregation of uninsured motorist coverage and limit liability to $10,000.00, where separate premiums are charged for more than one unit vehicle under a single policy.

 I.

 The certified statement of facts are as follows:

 On December 5, 1979, the Appellants, Robert Brown and his wife, Peggy Ann Brown, were riding in a vehicle owned by Robert Brown and insured by Government Employees Insurance Company. At that time, they were approaching the intersection of Magnolia Street and Howard Street in Moss Point, Jackson County, Mississippi, when they were involved in a collision which took place with an alleged uninsured motorist, Betty J. Battles.

 The policy of insurance which the Appellants

 had in full force and effect on the date of the accident provided, among other things, for payment of damages as a result of the injuries caused by the negligence of an uninsured motorist. While both insureds were involved in the automobile accident, it was Peggy Ann Brown who claimed the more serious injuries as a result of this accident and made a claim that her damages collectible from an uninsured motorist would exceed $30,000.00.

 After this demand was made, the Appellees filed a Bill of Complaint alleging as their cause of action 28 U.S.C.A. Section 2201, commonly known as Federal Declaratory Judgment Action. This action was filed on Februry 25, 1981 to have the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi define and construe the limits of liability clause under the uninsured motorist coverage of this policy.

 In conjunction with the filing of the Declaratory Judgment action, the Appellee tendered the sum of $10,000.00 into the registry of the U.S. District Court proposing that this was the total amount of coverage which would be provided under the policy of insurance.

 Subsequent to the filing of the Declaratory Judgment action, the Appellants, Peggy Ann Brown and Robert Brown, each filed their own Declaration in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi, on or about April 22, 1981. These actions were civil suits naming as Defendants, the uninsured motorist, Betty J. Battles, and the Appellee insurance company, Government Employees Insurance Company.

 In conjunction with the filing of these lawsuits in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi, the Appellants also filed a Motion to Dismiss the Declaratory Judgment action, pursuant to Rule 12 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Thereafter, on May 5, 1981, Government Employees Insurance Company filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in the United States District Court based on their Declaratory Judgment action.

 As a result of the hearings on both Motions filed, the United States District Court issued an order dated June 9, ...


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