In a 5-2 decision the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on August 22, 2007 that Ohio auto insurance policies may exclude uninsured motorist coverage from injuries a policyholder suffers when another driver who enjoys immunity causes the injuries. The case, Snyder v. Am. Family Ins. Co., 2007-Ohio-4004, allowed the insurance company to deny a claim that a Columbus police office filed after being struck by another police car while both drivers were both on duty and were both immune from civil liability under the state's sovereign immunity law. As a result, the plaintiff sought recovery for her medical expenses and other damages through her personal auto insurance policy.
R.C. 3937.18 authorizes insurers and policyholders to contract for uninsured motorist coverage with additional restrictions and limitations beyond the definitions set forth in the statute and in this case the insurance contract in issue included a specific additional limitation that the policyholder could collect UM benefits under the policy only if she could prove that she was "legally entitled to recover" from an uninsured driver. Due to sovereign immunity, the plaintiff was not legally entitled to recover from the other driver.
Writing for the majority in the decision, Justice Cupp affirmed the decision of the Franklin County Court of Appeals and wrote:
Although R.C. 3937.18 specifically includes motor vehicle operators or owners who are immune from liability under R.C. Chapter 2744 within the definition of "uninsured motorist," -- that alone is not dispositive of a policyholder's right to recover, because the statute does not preclude insurers from adding other conditions to recovery . . . R.C. 3937.18(I) expressly permits the parties to agree to other specified conditions to, or exclusions from, uninsured/underinsured-motorist coverage. A more accurate view is that R.C. 3937.18(D) is a default provision, governing in the absence of additional policy provisions requiring more.
For more information on this case, see the Ohio Supreme Court summary.