Farmers Insurance Exchange v. Superior Court (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1199

Despite tragic facts, the Court of Appeal issued a writ of mandate, holding that GMSR’s insurance-carrier client owed no coverage under a homeowners insurance policy. It directed entry of summary adjudication to that effect.

Young children lived with their grandparents. When the grandfather arrived home in his truck, the distracted grandmother negligently let the children run out to greet him. One climbed into the cab with him and as he drove forward he ran over and killed the other child. The parents sued the grandparents. The carrier agreed that the auto policy afforded a duty to defend but the grandparents claimed coverage under a homeowners policy as well. The homeowners policy excludes injuries resulting from motor vehicle use. Under State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Partridge (1973) 10 Cal.3d 94, such an exclusion does not apply when there is negligence “independent” of the excluded risk.

The Court of Appeal adopted GMSR’s arguments that the negligent supervision of the children was not independent of the motor vehicle use because (1) the excluded instrumentality (the truck) played an active role in causing the injury (indeed was the only physical cause of injury), and (2) the supervision was only negligent because it exposed the victim to the danger posed by the excluded motor vehicle. The Court of Appeal also held that the policy unambiguously excluded motor vehicle-inflicted injuries, no matter who was driving.

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