Progressive's attempt to avoid coverage is rejected in death case
Progressive wrote insurance on the trucks operated by Rozafa Transport, however when William Neill was killed during the unloading of one of Rozafa's trucks, Progressive denied coverage. The insurer admitted it had coverage if liability arose out of the "use, ownership or maintenance" of the semi-tractor and trailer, however, it argued that since a forklift was being used in the unloading process, the coverage was eliminated by an exclusion relating to injuries "caused by movement..of an unattached..mechanical device."
The trial court bought this argument and dismissed the case, even though there were factual questions regarding what caused a piece of heavy equipment on the semi-trailer to fall and crush Mr. Neill. Neill's widow and Rozafa Transport appealed the lower court's decision to deny coverage and the Court of Appeals overturned the lower court decision. Since it had not been determined what caused the 800 pound object to fall from the truck and kill Neill, indeed Progressive had not even alleged that use of the forklift had caused the death, it was premature for the lower court to deny coverage based on the "mechanical device" exclusion. The case is entitled Progressive Michigan Insurance Co. v. Rozafa Transport, Inc., and Gjergi RRogomi, and Gwendolyn Neill, Personal Representative of the Estate of William J. Neill, IV.