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Vol. 4, Iss. 5
May 20, 2015

Come On. Who Doesn’t Love A Good “Use Of An Auto” Case


Cases involving whether injury arises out of the “use of an auto” – for purposes of triggering an Auto or UM/UIM policy or the applicability of a CGL or homeowner’s policy’s auto exclusion -- have a way of involving strange facts. See Roque v. Allstate Ins. Co., Colorado Court of Appeals, Jan. 19, 2012 (exiting your car and hitting another motorist with a golf club did not qualify as use of an auto for purposes of a UM policy).

And this is not surprising. After all, since automobiles are designed with a clear purpose in mind, what’s “use of an auto” shouldn’t be all that hard to figure out. So, if “use of an auto” is being litigated, then it’s probably because the claim involves something more than a person simply sitting behind the wheel, motoring down the road, minding their own business, en route to Point B. These “use of an auto” cases are also legion. Again, not surprising, since automobiles are so prevalent, on a daily basis, in so many people’s lives.

Here are some cases, indeed from just the past few years, where the facts caused wonderment whether they involved “use of an auto.” The last one is the most recent – from just over a month ago.

Colon v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., New Jersey Superior Court, App. Div., Jan. 20, 2012 (automobile driver that bit police officer on the arm during a traffic stop did not qualify as use of an auto for purposes of a homeowners policy) (extra tidbit -- upon being stopped driver gave her name to the officer as Beyonce Knowles).

Sunshine State Ins. Co. v. Jones, Florida Court of Appeal, Jan. 18, 2012 (grabbing the steering wheel to annoy your girlfriend, while she is driving, did not qualify as use of an auto for purposes of a homeowners policy).

Hays v. Georgia Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., Georgia Court of Appeals, Feb. 14, 2012 (using a pick-up truck and a pulley system, in attempting to lift a portable toilet onto the top of a deer stand, qualified as use of an auto for purposes of a homeowners policy).

National Casualty Co. v. Western World Ins. Co., 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Feb. 3, 2012 (injury to an individual, while being placed into an ambulance, qualified as use of an auto for purposes of an automobile policy).

Colony Ins. Co. v. Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers, Eastern District of Michigan, December 21, 2011 (automobile passenger that opened the rear door of a van and jumped out, while it was travelling greater than 50 mph, qualified as use of an auto for purposes of a CGL policy).

New London County Mutual Ins. Co. v. Nantes, Supreme Court of Connecticut, Feb. 21, 2012 (individuals that suffered neurological injuries, on account of exposure to carbon monoxide from a car that was left running overnight in a garage, qualified as use of an auto for purposes of a homeowners policy).

Lancer Ins. Co. v. Garcia Holiday Tours, Supreme Court of Texas, July 1, 2011 (exposure of bus passengers to bus driver’s tuberculosis did not constitute use of an auto under bus company’s automobile policy).

Allstate Ins. Co. v. Reyes, New York App. Div., Aug. 7, 2013 (injuries sustained by a woman who walked in front of a parked vehicle, and was bitten on the breast by a rottweiler that extended its head from inside the vehicle, did not arise out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of an underinsured vehicle).

And now the latest entrant into the family of unusual “use of an auto” cases:

In State Farm v. Beauchane, Minn. Ct. App., Apr. 6, 2014, the court addressed coverage for Justin Beauchane, who left his pickup truck (insured) in the middle of the street tied to a tree that he wanted to pull down. A motorcyclist swerved to miss the rope and struck Beauchane’s Chevy Blazer (uninsured), which Beauchane had just moved out of the tree’s path. The court held that coverage was owed under Beauchane’s policy on the pick-up truck because the injury arose from the use of the pick-up.

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