Exclusion Covers Personal Injury Coverage for Accidents That Occur in Commission of a Crime
In the recent decision of Trumps v. USAgencies Cas. Ins. Co., No. 14-25 2014 WL 1815376 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 5/7/214), the Third Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana upheld an exclusion in automobile insurance policy which excluded personal injury coverage for an accident which occurred in the commission of a crime, fleeing law enforcement officers.
On April 28, 2012, Christine Trumps sustained personal injuries while a passenger of a vehicle being operated by USAgencies’ insured, Mr. Dewey Wayne Salter. While fleeing law enforcement officers, Mr. Salter lost control of his vehicle, left the roadway and collided with a private residence. Ms. Trumps sued Mr. Salter and his insurer, USAgencies, for the personal injuries but USAgencies was summarily dismissed from the lawsuit.
Insurance Companies Can Limit Coverage
On appeal, the Third Circuit upheld USAgencies’ dismissal because Mr. Salter’s policy with USAgencies excluded coverage for an accident which occurred in the commission of a crime. The policy excluded coverage for “[b]odily injury or property damage caused by any covered person while engaged in the commission of a crime.” The policy defined “crime” as “any felony or any action to flee from, evade or avoid arrest or detection by the police or other law enforcement agency.”
Ms. Trumps argued on appeal that the exclusion was against public policy claiming the exclusion was impermissibly broad because nearly ever accident must involve some form of criminal violation. The Third Circuit disagreed noting that insurance companies can limit coverage as long as they do not conflict with statutory provisions or public policy. The Third Circuit noted that the exclusion was narrowly construed and specifically included fleeing arrest or detection. The Third Circuit also found that Ms. Trump’s participation in the act of fleeing was irrelevant to whether the exclusion applied.
Ms. Trumps also argued that a different standard should have applied to her because she was not a named insured and should be considered a member of the general public, citing Upshaw v. Great American Indemnity Co., 112 So.2d 125 (La. App. 2nd Cir. 1959). The Third Circuit distinguished Upshaw finding Upshaw involved an allegation of contributory negligence brought by the insurer not the applicability of the aforementioned exclusion.
Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.