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Court of Appeal Affirms Successful Summary Judgment Obtained by Mokri Vanis & Jones Partner Limor Lehavi in Liability Insurance Coverage Case Involving “Auto Exclusion”

Fire Insurance Exchange v. Vasquez, 2017 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 2277, 2017 WL 1173730 arose from a tragic motor vehicle accident which occurred when a landlord backed up his large truck in a driveway his home shared with his rental property, and ran over his tenant’s toddler, killing the child. The truck’s insurer accepted coverage. Ms. Lehavi represented the insurance company that wrote insurance policies for the landlord’s home and rental property. That insurer denied coverage for the accident because the rental and homeowner’s policies excluded coverage for injuries resulting from the use of motor vehicles.

The parents of the decedent child, represented by attorneys Delores Yarnall, Brian Kabatek and Mark Geragos, attempted to overcome the application of the motor vehicle exclusion by asserting a premises liability claim in addition to the claim for motor vehicle negligence. The premises liability claim was based on the landlord’s alleged failure to provide the tenants with safe ingress and egress from their unit.

Applying a test derived from another successful Ms. Lehavi case, Farmers Ins. Exch. v. Superior Court (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1199 (Bautista), the Court of Appeal held that the motor vehicle driven by the insured landlord was the active instrumentality of harm, and that the premises liability claim was based on exposing the victim to the danger of negligent automobile use. As a result, the court determined that the premises liability claim was not independent of the negligent driving, and therefore the motor vehicle exclusion barred coverage.

To read the Vasquez opinion, click here.

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