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Cleveland State Law Review


Holt v. Grange, consumer insurnace contracts, insurance law, wrongful death


The recent Ohio Supreme Court decision of Holt v. Grange Mutual Casualty Co., is a consumer friendly decision and represents both an equitable and sound interpretation and application of Ohio law to consumer insurance contracts.The decision in Holt favors insurance consumers but has alarmed the insurance industry. The industry perceives the decision as bringing into question what language of an insurance policy will be upheld under the freedom of contract and what will be stricken as against public policy. First, the industry would argue that Holt seems to denigrate and abrogate the rights of an uninsurance/underinsurance provider to craft its policies according to basic clear unambiguous language and contract principles. Second, the decision could be viewed as creating confusion and instability regarding what provisions insurers may rightfully include in their policies in order to limit their liability to the public in general. Third, insurance actuaries would state they have uncertainty in calculating how much an average car owner will need to pay to take into account these perceived abrogations of the right to contract. Lastly, the decision in Holt sends a message to consumers that they may challenge a policy's plain language and may recover for losses under public policy principles, even if the strict letter of the insurance policy would prohibit recovery.Thus, insurers and insureds will continue to be impacted by future decisions dealing with uninsured/underinsured motorist protection because this protection requires the balancing of contract law with the public policy of protecting “persons from losses which, because of the tortfeasor's lack of liability coverage would otherwise go uncompensated.”