Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Public Road Running in Front of Home Not Part of "Insured Location" For Homeowner's Insurance Coverage Purposes

In his recent decision in the case of   O'Brien v. Ohio Casualty, No. 2002 CV 6990 (C.P. Lacka. Co.   Minora, J.), Judge Carmen D. Minora of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas ruled that a homeowner's carrier had a duty to defend and indemnify in a case involving an ATV accident that occurred off of the premises of the insured homeowner.

After thoroughly reviewing the current status of the duty to defend/duty to indemnify law for declaratory judgment actions involving liability insurance coverage questions, Judge Minora tackled the central question before him of whether the "insured location" as defined in the insurance policy was implicated by the facts pertaining to how the subject accident occurred.

In the policy, the "insured location" was generally defined as the "premises you use."

Here, the person injured on the ATV drove the ATV away from the insured home, down the road, and then crashed on another homeowner's property.  Pointing to the similar scenario presented in the federal court decision of Haines v. State Auto, Judge Minora noted that the policy definition in that case was not found to cover a public road that ran in front of the insured premises.

Judge Carmen D. Minora
Lackawanna County
Judge Minora also pointed to a court of common pleas decision in which a similar argument was rejected on the grounds that it was unlawful to drive an ATV on public roadways.

As such, the court in O'Brien rejected the insured homeowners' attempt to invoke the coverage provision of the policy under an argument that they regularly used the road upon which the ATV was driven at the time of the accident.  The court also pointed out that the insured homeowners who were being sued did not regularly use the other property upon which the ATV eventually crashed so as to invoke the "insured location" language under the policy.

Accordingly, the homeowner's Motion for Summary Judgment on the coverage issue was denied and the carrier was not required to defend or indemnify the homeowners with respect to the underlying personal injury lawsuit arising out of the ATV accident involving an ATV owned by the homeowners' son.

Anyone wishing to review this decision online, may click this LINK.

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