Ohio Supreme Court Says Ambiguity Determination Must Consider Context

3b495-legalscalesimageIn the recent case of Sauer v. Crews, 2014-Ohio-3655, an insurance company asked the Ohio Supreme Court to affirm that when determining whether a policy provision is ambiguous, courts must consider the context of the provision and should not isolate the provision or weigh ambiguity in the abstract. The court agreed with the insurer and ruled that “courts must look at the provision in the overall context of the policy in determining whether the provision is ambiguous.” 

Ohio Supreme Court Says Ambiguity Determination Must Consider Context

By Burke Coleman | October 1, 2014

The general rule holds that when a policy provision is susceptible to more than one interpretation courts should construe the ambiguity against the insurer and liberally in favor of the insured. This principle is often asserted by policyholders seeking coverage but is not without limitation. The interpretive device favors coverage but courts will not impose an unreasonable interpretation or an absurd result.

In the recent case of Sauer v. Crews, 2014-Ohio-3655, an insurance company asked the Ohio Supreme Court to affirm that when determining whether a policy provision is ambiguous, courts must consider the context of the provision and should not isolate the provision or weigh ambiguity in the abstract. The court agreed with the insurer and ruled that “courts must look at the provision in the overall context of the policy in determining whether the provision is ambiguous.”

The opinion offers a restrained but important affirmation from the court that the intention of the parties to the insurance contract is of primary importance, and interpretive devices used by courts should not be detached legal abstractions, but should be utilized to interpret policy provisions in light of the policy as a whole. Read Entire Article


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