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Vol. 12 - Issue 8

November 14, 2023


Court Says “Common Sense Should Prevail” To Allow Extrinsic Evidence To Preclude Duty To Defend   


I’ve had this issue a lot.  And so have many of you. 

In Southern Owners Ins. Co. v. Midnight Tires, Inc., No. 21-1904 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 19, 2023), the court addressed coverage, under a garage liability policy issued to Midnight Tires, for bodily injury caused by a motor vehicle.  The policy excluded coverage for liability arising out of the use of an auto owned by Midnight Tires or any of its officers.  It was undisputed that the automobile in the accident was owned by two officers of Midnight Tires.  However, the amended complaint made no mention of the car’s ownership.

You can see where this is going.  The argument was made that, under the “eight corners” rule, a defense was owed as the amended complaint did not state that the automobile in the accident was owned by two officers of Midnight Tires.  In other words, while the automobile was in fact owned by two officers of Midnight Tires, that reality could not be considered by the insurer, to deny a defense, because it was extrinsic to the complaint. 

However, the court ruled otherwise, citing to a “limited” exception, adopted by the Eleventh Circuit, “in which a court may consider extrinsic facts if those facts are undisputed, and, had they been pled in the complaint, they clearly would have placed the claims outside the scope of coverage. . . . The exception is limited to exceptional cases in which courts have crafted an equitable remedy when it is manifestly obvious to all involved that the actual facts placed the claims outside the scope of coverage.”

It's common sense -- the court added: “Because this undisputed evidence clearly excludes the underlying claims from coverage under the Policy, the Court agrees with Plaintiff that the operative underlying complaint cannot be fairly read to contain claims that may be covered by the Policy. Thus, this is just the scenario where the exception to the eight corners rule is appropriate, for the fact that ‘[a]t some point in legal pleadings, common sense should prevail, which is in essence the basis for the limited exception to the four corners rule.’” (citation omitted).





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