The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently held that the insured’s eleven-year-old son was not a “volunteer worker” as defined by policy. North Carolina Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Burns, 2014 WL 7125117 (N.C. App. Dec. 16, 2014).

The insured’s twenty-year-old son and eleven-year-old son were cleaning out a grain bin when the eleven-year-old’s foot became caught in auger, resulting in injury. The insurer sought a declaration of no coverage for the injuries pursuant to a provision that excluded coverage for bodily injury sustained by “volunteer workers.” After the trial court granted the eleven-year-old’s motion for summary judgment (holding that he was not a “volunteer worker”), the insurer appealed.

Affirming, the North Carolina Court of Appeals noted that the policy defined a “volunteer worker” as someone who (inter alia) “is not paid a fee, salary or other compensation” and “donates his or her work.” The court concluded that in order to give every word of the policy meaning, the word “donate” must encompass more than working without receiving payment, and found that the word “donate” must mean that one works of his own choice and free will. The court found that an eleven-year-old child acted not of his own free will, but rather in response to parental instruction and that he was not “donating” his work and was not a “volunteer worker.”