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National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Merchants Fast Motor Lines

Supreme Court of Texas

February 21, 1997, Delivered

No. 96-0633

Opinion

 [*140] Per Curiam Opinion

This is a declaratory judgment action. The issue is whether a truck driver's allegedly negligent discharge of a gun, killing a  [*141]  passenger in another vehicle, triggers a duty to defend under the truck owner's vehicle liability policy. The trial court rendered summary judgment holding the insurer had no duty to defend. The court of appeals reversed. We reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and render judgment for the insurer.

The underlying pleadings allege that while operating a Merchants Fast Motor Lines truck, Gordon D. Hart "negligently [**2]  discharged a firearm and caused a bullet to strike" Casimiro Gonzalez, who was a passenger in a van traveling alongside Hart's truck. Gonzalez later died from the gunshot wound. These are the only facts about the shooting in the pleadings. Gonzalez's parents and children brought a wrongful death action, alleging that Hart was negligent in handling a firearm. They also alleged that Merchants was negligent in hiring Hart and in failing to provide proper supervision of its driver. Merchants and Hart requested that National Union defend them in the underlying suit under either a commercial general liability policy or a truckers policy that National Union issued. National Union disputed its duty to defend Hart under the CGL policy in both its declaratory judgment action and on appeal. However, in a single point of error to this Court, National Union complains only that the court of appeals erred in reversing the summary judgment on its duty to defend Merchants and Hart under the truckers policy.

National Union's truckers policy provides:

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939 S.W.2d 139 *; 1997 Tex. LEXIS 23 **; 40 Tex. Sup. J. 353

NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA, PETITIONER v. MERCHANTS FAST MOTOR LINES, INC., MERCHANTS OF TEXAS, INC., MERCHANTS TRUCKLOAD COMPANY, INC., AND GORDON D. HART, RESPONDENTS

Prior History:   [**1]   ON APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF ERROR TO THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS.

Disposition: The Court granted National Union's application for writ of error, and under Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 170, without hearing oral argument, reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment for National Union.

CORE TERMS

pleadings, coverage, insurer, court of appeals, truck, covered automobile, allegations, duty to defend, ownership

Civil Procedure, Pleading & Practice, Pleadings, Rule Application & Interpretation, Insurance Law, Policy Interpretation, Ambiguous Terms, Construction Against Insurers, Liability & Performance Standards, Good Faith & Fair Dealing, Duty to Defend, Motor Vehicle Insurance, Obligations, Vehicle Use, General Overview