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Insurance Law

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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], (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, [enhanced version available to subscribers], 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.

Coverage Opinions is a bi-weekly (or more frequently) electronic newsletter reporting or providing commentary on just-issued decisions from courts nationally addressing insurance coverage disputes. Coverage Opinions focuses on decisions that concern numerous issues under commercial general liability and professional liability insurance policies. For more information visit

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of his firm or its clients. The information contained herein shall not be considered legal advice. You are advised to consult with an attorney concerning how any of the issues addressed herein may apply to your own situation. Coverage Opinions is gluten free but may contain peanut products.

    Randy Maniloff is Counsel at White and Williams, LLP in Philadelphia. He previously served as a firm Partner for seven years and transitioned to a Counsel position to pursue certain writing projects including Coverage Opinions . Nonetheless he still maintains a full-time practice at the firm. Randy concentrates his practice in the representation of insurers in coverage disputes over primary and excess obligations under a host of policies, including commercial general liability and various professional liability policies, such as public official’s, law enforcement, educator’s, media, computer technology, architects and engineers, lawyers, real estate agents, community associations, environmental contractors, Indian tribes and several others. Randy has significant experience in coverage for environmental damage and toxic torts, liquor liability and construction defect, including additional insured and contractual indemnity issues. Randy is co-author of “General Liability Insurance Coverage - Key Issues In Every State” (Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2012). For the past twelve years Randy has published a year-end article that addresses the ten most significant insurance coverage decisions of the year completed.

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