Auto Exclusion in General Liability Policy Applies to Bar Motorcycle v. Hayrack Collision
Insurance Law Update
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
In Grinnell Mut. Reinsurance Co. v. Wolf, 2010 WL 3024878 (N.D. Ill. July 30, 2010), the district court held that coverage for a death resulting from a motorcycle’s collision with a truck pulling a hayrack was excluded under the “aircraft, auto or watercraft” exclusion in a general liability policy.
Christopher Matijevich was killed when his motorcycle collided with a hayrack pulled by a truck driven by Gary Wolf. The decedent’s survivors brought a wrongful death suit against Wolf and his corporation. Grinnell Mutual insured Wolf under a commercial general liability insurance policy that contained an exclusion for bodily injury or property damage arising out of the ownership, maintenance, use or entrustment to others of any aircraft, “auto” or watercraft. The policy defined “auto” to include any machinery or equipment attached to a land motor vehicle.
Grinnell Mutual initiated a coverage action and filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Wolf against the wrongful death claims. The Northern District of Illinois granted Grinnell Mutual’s motion, and denied a survivor’s cross-motion, based on the auto exclusion. The court distinguished a prior Illinois Appellate Court decision involving a collision with a horse trailer. In the prior case, the claimants had alleged that the insured had designed, marketed, distributed and sold the trailer that had design defects, and further alleged that the insured had failed to warn potential users of the trailer’s danger. These allegations were distinct claims from allegations concerning the insured’s ownership and maintenance of the trailer, and therefore did not fall within the scope of a similar auto exclusion. Here, however, the hayrack was attached to Wolf’s truck, and the decedent’s death allegedly arose from the maintenance or use of the truck. The court also rejected the argument that the policy’s definition of “auto” was ambiguous and therefore had to be construed in favor of the insured.