Principles of Insurance Policy Interpretation In Ohio

An insurance policy is a contract, so the relationship between the insurer and the insured is contractual in nature. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Marsh (1984), 15 Ohio St. 3d 107, 109, 472 N.E.2d 1061. Because an insurance policy is a contract, the interpretation and construction of insurance policies is a matter of law to be determined by the court using rules of construction and interpretation applicable to contract generally. Gomolka v. State Auto. Mutl. Ins. Co. (1982), 70 Ohio St. 2d 166, 167-168, 436 N.E.2d 1347. In interpreting the language of an insurance policy, this court must give words and phrases their plain and ordinary meaning unless manifest absurdity results or unless some other meaning is clearly intended from the face or overall contents of the instrument. Olmstead v. Lumbermens Mutl. Ins. Co. (1970), 22 Ohio St. 2d 212, 216, 259 N.E.2d 123. Clear and unambiguous language in the policy cannot be altered by the court to reach a result not intended by the parties. Gomolka, 70 Ohio St. 2d at 168. To determine if language in an insurance contract is ambiguous, the court must determine whether that language is "reasonably susceptible of more than one interpretation." King v. Nationwide Ins. Co. (1988), 35 Ohio St. 3d 208, 519 N.E.2d 1380. Where provisions of a contract of insurance are reasonably susceptible of more than one interpretation, they will be construed strictly against the insurer and liberally in favor of the insured. Faruque v. Provident Life & Acc. Ins. Co. (1987), 31 Ohio St. 3d 34, 508 N.E.2d 949.