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Insurer allowed to exclude coverage arising from use of an auto

The Estate of Michael Verschure sued Essex Insurance Co. after Michael was run over in a bar parking lot.  Essex wrote liability insurance on the bar, "Wild Woody's" in Roseville.  Essex denied responsibility for the incident, claiming the events leading to Verschure's death were not an "occurrence" under the policy, that liability was excluded as an "intended injury" and that the broad auto-related injury exclusion in its policy applied to Michael's death.

The trial court denied Essex's motion for summary disposition.  On appeal, the Court ruled that the incident was an "accident" or an "occurrence" under the policy language.  An altercation had started in the parking lot and the bar's bouncers had run toward Nassib Elassal, one of the participants.  Elassal claimed he feared for his life and ran to his car, put it in reverse, and accidentally ran over and killed Verschure.  Verschure's family argued that the bar bouncers were negligent in the manner in which they responded to the altercation.

The Court noted that the bar's employees had not expected or intended Elassal to react in this manner, or for Verschure to be run over, and therefore the event was an accidental occurrence.  Further, their coverage was not eliminated by the the provision in the policy denying coverage for an intentional act.  On the other hand, the judges concluded that a broad exclusion in the policy denying coverage for any injury resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, applied to this claim, even though the bar employees' liability did not arise out of the use of an auto.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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