Eagle and Engeldrum Obtain Summary Judgment For Insurer Client Declaring No Duty To Defend Or To Indemnify Three Alleged Insureds In Underlying Wrongful Death Case

March 16, 2016 | Insurance Coverage

Alan Eagle and Joanne Engeldrum obtained summary judgment on behalf of the Firm’s Insurer client declaring that the Insurer had no duty to defend or to indemnify three alleged insureds under a $3 million business auto policy based upon the Mechanical Device Exclusion.  The three alleged insureds sought coverage for an underlying wrongful death case.

The court held that Texas law applied to the business auto policy where the parent, first named insured under the policy was domiciled in Texas.  The underlying action arose out of a New York accident; involved a New Jersey registered auto; and the subsidiary named insured involved in the accident was allegedly in New Jersey.  The three alleged insureds had argued that the application of New Jersey law wrote the Mechanical Device Exclusion out of the policy.  The application of Texas law by the court ensured that one state’s law applied to the interpretation of the policy, and prevented the application of multiple states laws to a single policy.  Applying Texas law, the court went on to hold that the Mechanical Device Exclusion applied to preclude coverage under the business auto policy because the decedent’s death, which occurred when he was struck by a 2700 pound battery being unloaded from a truck with a pallet jack, necessarily resulted from a mechanical device.  The court rejected the alleged insureds’ argument that the exclusion did not apply because there were various theories of liability alleged in the underlying wrongful death action, including that the lift gate on the truck was defective.

Accordingly, the court found that the Insurer had no duty to defend or to indemnify the three alleged insureds in the underlying action.

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