In a case of first impression in South Carolina, the South Carolina Court of Appeals recently held that the phrase “furnished to you” in a commercial auto policy is ambiguous, and in so doing found coverage for injuries sustained by an insured’s “temporary employee.” Canal Ins. Co. v. National House Movers, LLC, No. 2014-000150, 2015 WL 5438703 (S.C. Ct. App., Sept. 16, 2015).
The insured, a house mover, was sued for negligence after one of its workers was injured while moving a house. The insured tendered the lawsuit to its commercial auto carrier, which sought a declaration of no coverage. The trial court found that the insured was entitled to coverage. The insurer appealed, arguing that the claimant was an “employee” and that coverage was excluded for damages arising from bodily injuries sustained by an employee in the course of his or her employment.
The policy’s definition of “employee” specifically excluded “temporary workers.” The policy defined “temporary worker” as, “a person who is furnished to the employer to substitute for a permanent employee on leave or to meet seasonal or short-term workload conditions.” The insured argued that the claimant fell within the definition of “temporary worker” and was thus not an employee. The insurer disputed such characterization because the claimant had not been furnished by a staffing or leasing agency. The Court of Appeals analyzed whether the claimant had been “furnished to” the insured. Looking to the plain meaning of the phrase “furnished to” and to case law from other jurisdictions, it found that the term requires third-party involvement. Because the policy did not specify who the third-party must be, the court found the phrase “furnished to” to be ambiguous and resolved that ambiguity in favor or coverage, holding that claimant was a “temporary worker” and that coverage for his injuries therefore was not excluded.