The Virginia Supreme Court recently held a law partner was not entitled to business auto coverage under his law partnership’s policy following an auto accident that occurred on the partner’s commute to work. Bartolomucci v. Fed. Ins. Co., 771 S.E.2d 451 (Va. 2015).
Following an auto accident between a partner in the insured firm and a third party during the partner’s commute to work, the third party sued the partner. The third party refused to settle his suit within the limit of the partner’s personal auto policy and the partner sought a judicial declaration that he was entitled to coverage under the partnership’s business auto policy. The court entered judgment in favor of the insurer, holding that the business auto policy did not cover the partner’s use of the vehicle at the time of the collision, and the partner appealed.
Affirming, the Virginia Supreme Court held that the partner’s commute to work was not a “use in” the partnership’s business or personal affairs, as would be necessary for the business auto policy to be triggered. The Supreme Court rejected the partner’s argument that he was “in” the partnership’s business at the time of the accident simply because he had his work cell phone on and was thinking about work during his commute. The Supreme Court found that the facts did not amount to anything more than a typical commute from home to work, noting (in particular) that the record did not indicate whether the partner actually read or responded to any work emails or billed any time during his commute.