Versichelli and Misiti Obtain Summary Judgment

July 13, 2018 | Commercial Litigation | Insurance Coverage

Michael Versichelli and Frank Misiti obtained summary judgment dismissing claims against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company for defense and indemnification of an underlying wrongful death/personal injury judgment in the amount of $2.98 million.

The underlying lawsuit arose out of a motor vehicle accident whereby the insured’s daughter was following the insured (her mother) in a separate car.  The mother, who was driving a vehicle insured by State Farm, turned off the main road onto a side street, made a three-point turn, and then waited for her daughter.  Upon seeing her daughter, the insured waved and the daughter then made the same turn off the main road.  When the daughter turned, she struck an individual riding a motorcycle.  The individual died from his injuries.

State Farm was sued by the mother’s homeowners insurer, Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company.  Nationwide, relying on an exclusion in its policy, claimed that it had no obligation to defend or indemnify its insured because the accident was caused by the use or operation of the State Farm automobile and that it was State Farm’s responsibility to defend and indemnify the mother.  Additionally, the mother and the Estate of the motorcycle rider cross-claimed against State Farm seeking coverage, as well as claiming bad faith.

The Supreme Court declared that State Farm had no obligation to defend the driver of the State Farm vehicle for the underlying lawsuit and no obligation to pay any portion of the judgment in the underlying lawsuit because the accident was not caused by the use or operation of the State Farm vehicle.  The Court noted that there was no nexus between the mother’s wave and the actual operation of the automobile.

As a result, the Court dismissed all claims against State Farm, including the bad faith claims.  The Court then determined that Nationwide’s exclusion did not apply and that Nationwide had an obligation to defend and indemnify the driver of the State Farm vehicle.

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  • Michael P. Versichelli
  • Frank M. Misiti

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