Court enforces exclusion in insurance contract; "while used to carry property" does not require that property be carried...?
Marie Hunt, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Eugene Hunt, sued Roger Drielick and others after Drielick apparently caused a car wreck while driving a semi-tractor "bob-tailed." Drielick was on his way to pick up a semi-trailer and load when he injured the plaintiffs. Eventually, the parties settled the litigation by agreeing to pursue a claim against Drielick's commercial auto insurance, Empire Fire and Marine. Empire denied liability, claiming that coverage in this situation was excluded under a policy provision that stated that coverage does not apply when bodily injury...occurs "while a covered auto is used to carry property in any business."
The victims and the truck driver and his employer all argued that since Drielick wasn't carrying any property at the time of the collision, the above exclusion didn't apply. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that even though the defendant driver was not required to report to pick up his load at any given time, under the "plain language" of the policy, the insurer was not responsible for the damage and injury Drielick caused, because he was "purposely driving to the yard to transport property."
The appellate court holding suggested that the parties could have limited the coverage to "those occasions when cargo was actually, physically, on the truck," if that was their intention. The parties thought that the "plain language" of the policy did exactly that. It appears to us, also, that it did.