Insurance Coverage Briefly—Autumn 2012

Periodically, we will summarize a few recent insurance coverage cases highlighting interesting issues. Take a minute to review recent Connecticut cases pertaining to insurance coverage issues in our first “Insurance Coverage Briefly.”

New London County Mutual Ins. Co. v. Bialobrodec, et al.

(AC 33433)(officially released August 14, 2012)

Following a fatal motorcycle accident, the decedent’s estate brought suit against Andrzej and Grazyna Biolobrodecs and their teenage son, Adrian. Adrian had permitted the decedent, also a teenager, to operate the motorcycle.  

The Bialobrodecs’ insurer, New London County Mutual, filed a declaratory judgment action and was granted summary judgment on the grounds that it had no duty to defend the insured because the causes of action arose out of the use of a motor vehicle or the negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle and, therefore, was excluded from coverage under the policy. 

On appeal, the defendants argued that the cause of action arose out of the failure to supervise their son.  The Appellate Court, however, was not persuaded that the negligent supervision allegations stood apart and separate from facts alleged that the operation and use of the motorcycle caused the decedent’s injury and ultimate death.

Simply put, if the decedent had not operated the motorcycle and crashed, any alleged failure to supervise Adrian could not form the basis of a cause of action.  The judgment was affirmed.

 

Jablonski v. One Grand, LLC, et al

NNH-CV09-6005185-S, Superior Court at New Haven, (Silbert, J., May 10, 2012)

In Jablonski, Judge Silbert ruled that insurance defense counsel may withdraw an appearance filed on behalf of an insured upon the insurer’s decision to deny coverage and cease payments of defense costs.  The Court joins courts in Pennsylvania and New York in allowing the withdrawal, however, noted the presence of particular circumstances, namely:  that the insured was making no apparent attempt to challenge the denial of coverage.  Of further consideration was that the insured was given notice (as required under Connecticut practice) of the counsel’s desire to withdraw and an opportunity to be heard, but neither filed an objection nor appeared at the scheduled withdrawal hearing.

 

Lucas v. One Beacon Midwest, Ins. Co.

CV-10-6002222-S, Superior Court at Middletown, (Aurigemma, J., April 24, 2012).

In Lucas, the Superior Court in Middletown held that injuries incurred by a municipal police officer in the course of assisting an intoxicated driver out of a vehicle during a traffic stop did “arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured vehicle” within the meaning of the UIM coverage clause of the municipality’s automobile insurance policy.  Following the reasoning in the recent Connecticut Supreme Court case of New London County Mutual Ins. Co. v. Nantes, 303 Conn. 737 (2002), with regard to the terms “arising out of the use of a motor vehicle,” the Court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as to liability and denied the defendant’s cross-motion for summary judgment.

— Karey P. Pond