Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Public Road Not Part of "Insured Location" Under Homeowner's Policy

In his recent decision in the case of O’Brien v. Ohio Casualty Insurance Company, No. 2002-CV-6690 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Oct. 14, 2015 Minora, J.), Judge Carmen D. Minora of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas denied a Plaintiff’s Motion for Post-Trial Relief following a bench trial on a declaratory judgment action involving an insurance coverage issue under a homeowner’s policy. 
The Plaintiff was at a graduation party at the homeowner’s residence. During the party, the injured party Plaintiff was operating an ATV owned by the homeowner’s son when the injured party Plaintiff crashed after hitting loose gravel, striking a tree and a telephone pole and coming to rest on the property of a different residence.

The homeowner’s insurance company for the Defendant homeowner denied coverage under policy provisions indicating that liability coverage did not apply to bodily injury arising out of the entrustment by an insured of a motor vehicle or any other motorized land conveyance to any person. The policy language also provided that this exclusion did not apply to a motorized land conveyance designed for recreational use off public roads, which was not subject to motor vehicle registration, and which was owned by an insured and on an insured location.

Judge Minora had previously denied summary judgment on the issues presented in this case.  A summary of that decision may be viewed in a prior Tort Talk blog post HERE

After a bench trial in the declaratory judgment action, Judge Minora issued a Memorandum and Order holding that the location of the ATV accident could not meet the policy definition of an "insured location" under the policy of insurance.

Accordingly, the court found that the homeowners lacked insurance coverage and that the homeowner’s insurance carrier was not required to either defend or indemnify the homeowner’s under that policy of insurance.

Thereafter, the injured party Plaintiff filed a Motion for Post-Trial Relief. In his most recent Opinion in this case, Judge Minora revisited the issues and reaffirmed his decision that coverage need not be afforded under the policy at issue. In so ruling, Judge Minora reiterated his finding, based upon Pennsylvania appellate law, that the definition of "insured location" is not broad enough to include the public roadway involved in the subject accident. 

Anyone wishing to review Judge Minora's October, 2015 Opinion in O'Brien may click this LINK.

UPDATE:  Judge Minora's decision was affirmed on appeal by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in a non-precedential memorandum decision issued on October 25, 2016.

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