June 4, 2019
From Greenville County William H. Seals, Jr., Circuit Court
L. Turnage, of Harris & Graves, PA, of Greenville, for
Brian Sawyer and Adam J. Neil, both of Murphy &
Grantland, PA, of Columbia, for Respondent.
declaratory judgment action to determine whether underinsured
motorist (UIM) coverage exists under an automobile insurance
policy, Kristina Knight (Knight), individually and as
personal representative of the estate of Daniel Knight
(Decedent), appeals the circuit court's order granting
summary judgment to Nationwide Insurance Company of America
(Nationwide). Knight argues South Carolina's excluded
driver statute, section 38-77-340 of the South Carolina Code
(2015), and public policy considerations prohibit an insurer
from excluding a resident relative from uninsured motorist
(UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, even when the
policyholder has executed an endorsement intentionally
excluding the resident relative from "all coverages in
[the] policy." We affirm the circuit court's order
granting summary judgment.
and Procedural History
22, 2014, Knight applied for a Nationwide automobile
insurance policy (the Policy) and completed an endorsement
(Excluded Driver Endorsement) listing Decedent as an
individual excluded from coverage under the
Policy. The Excluded Driver Endorsement states,
"With this endorsement, all coverages in your policy are
not in effect while Danny Knight is operating any motor
vehicle." Knight signed this page, on which she also
checked the box confirming "the excluded person has
obtained insurance or other security to operate motor
December 4, 2015, Nationwide issued the Policy to Knight, who
was then engaged to Decedent. The Policy insured a 1996 Ford
Ranger and was effective from December 4, 2015, through June
4, 2016. Decedent and Knight married later in December 2015.
February 2, 2016, a vehicle struck and killed Decedent while
he was riding his motorcycle. Decedent's estate collected
from the at-fault driver's liability coverage,
Decedent's motorcycle policy, and Decedent's UIM
coverage from his own automobile policy. Knight subsequently
made a claim with Nationwide, seeking to stack her
Policy's UIM limits with the other coverages. It is
undisputed that the damages here exceed the coverage limits
of the Policy.
filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration
"that it is not required to provide any coverage,
including but not limited to underinsured motorist
coverage," for any claim "made on account of the
February 2, 2016 accident." Knight answered and
counterclaimed for breach of contract.
moved for summary judgment; Knight filed a cross motion for
summary judgment, arguing Nationwide's "insurance
policy and [Excluded Driver] endorsement violate the public
policy of the State of South Carolina." The circuit
court heard the motions on May 22, 2017, and subsequently
granted Nationwide's motion for summary judgment.
declaratory judgment actions are neither legal nor equitable,
the standard of review depends on the nature of the
underlying issues." Goldston v. State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co., 358 S.C. 157, 166, 594 S.E.2d 511, 516
(Ct. App. 2004). "When the purpose of the underlying
dispute is to determine whether coverage exists under an
insurance policy, the action is one at law."
Williams v. Gov't Employees Ins. Co. (GEICO),
409 S.C. 586, 593, 762 S.E.2d 705, ...