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Long haul trucker is engaged in the business even when searching for lodging between contracts

In Auto-Owners v. Redland Insurance Company, the Sixth Circuit was faced with a dispute between two carriers with regard to which carrier had priority in responding to a liability claim.  An employee of their insured, David Gale, was operating a semi-tractor trailer in southwest Michigan when he fell asleep and killed another motorist.  Gale had completed a delivery in Grand Rapids, was awaiting his next assignment, and had telephoned his employer to indicate he was looking for a location east of Chicago to bed down for the night.  Under the terms of its coverage, Redland owed liability coverage to the victim only if Gale was not "in the business" of trucking when he fell asleep and crossed the centerline. 

 AutoOwners took the position that when Gale was between assignments and searching for a place to sleep, he was not "in the business" of trucking.  AutoOwners' argument finds some support in decisions like the Michigan holding  several months ago involving a traveling businessman who became paralyzed in a car accident on his way to a restaurant for dinner.  The victim in that case was staying in a motel while out of town on business when he was hurt.  The judicial activists who protect insurers in Michigan held that he was not engaged in his employment (and not eligible for workers compensation) when he got hurt.

Frankly, we think the Sixth Circuit got it right in Gale's case, and both men were "engaged in their business" at the time of the motor vehicle collisions.  It is enlightening to note, however, that the effect in each case was to diminish the insurance coverage or obligation owed to the injured party.

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