Ordinarily I don’t blog about decisions in cases where I or my firm represented a party. But this decision seems to have slipped through West’s fingers, so I’ll include it here with minimal commentary in case it may be of use to someone.

In this federal decision from the Western District of Missouri, the plaintiff had sued an insurer in a putative statewide class action. The plaintiff’s vehicle had been stolen, and he claimed that in addition to paying the fair market value of the stolen vehicle, the insurer also should have paid for the estimated sales tax and fees for a replacement vehicle.

Cases like these have been filed against insurers in various states. To me, Missouri seemed a particularly odd choice for such a case, since unlike most states, Missouri has a statue and regulation requiring the State to provide a credit or refund on sales tax and fees for replacement vehicles. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 144.027.1. The insured simply obtains a certificate from the insurer and submits it to the State to receive the credit or, if submitted after having already licensed the replacement vehicle, the refund. Simply put, an insured with a total loss does not suffer a “loss” with respect to sales tax and licensing fees on the replacement vehicle because the State pays it.

Regardless, plaintiff pled a breach of contract class action, claiming the policy required the insurer to pay sales tax and fees on replacement vehicles. The court disagreed, granting the motion to dismiss without even having to get to the details of Missouri’s unique statutory reimbursement scheme:

“The Policy provides comprehensive coverage for a ‘loss’ to a ‘covered vehicle.’ (Policy, p. 19). The Policy defines ‘loss’ in relevant part as ‘total . . . theft of a covered vehicle.’ (Id.). The definition of ‘covered vehicle’ does not include a replacement car. (See id. at pp. 5, 18-19). . . .

* * *

“The Policy is unambiguous. Under the plain terms of the Policy’s coverage provisions, Plaintiff is not entitled to replacement costs, including those for sales tax and fees. The limits section does not expand coverage; it merely sets the maximum amount of liability. Even if the limits section did expand coverage, ‘actual cash value’ is unambiguous under Missouri law. In cases involving vehicle loss, ‘actual cash value’ is the difference between the fair market value of the property just before and after the loss. Plaintiff does not dispute that [the insurer] accurately calculated his stolen vehicle’s fair market value. Therefore, he is without recourse.”