A federal court in Arkansas recently entered a declaratory judgment in favor of an insurer, finding that the estate of a putative insured had not met its burden of establishing that the use of an all-terrain vehicle was “in any of the named insured’s operations” as required by the insureds' general liability policy. Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Hammond, et al., 2016 WL 1600855 (W.D. Ark. Apr. 21, 2016).
The insureds operated a farm. Their son was driving an all-terrain vehicle and had an accident on the farm, resulting in the deaths of their son and another individual. A wrongful death action was filed against the insureds and their son’s estate. The insurer filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that the insureds' son was not an insured. The policy provided that in addition to named insureds, “[e]ach of the following is also an insured:… (c) any other person while operating farm tractors, self-propelled farm machinery … in any of the name insured’s operations covered by this policy.”
In an earlier decision, the court found the vehicle was “self-propelled farm machinery,” and now considered whether the insureds' son operated the vehicle “in any of the named insured’s operations” at the time of the accident. The court found that purely recreation use of farm machinery did not entitle the insureds' son to insured status. Based on the stipulated facts agreed to by the parties, the court stated it could only speculate as to why the insureds' son and the other individual were riding the vehicle, but that speculation is not enough to carry the burden of proof. The court concluded that the son’s estate did not meet its burden to show the use of the vehicle at the time of the accident was more likely than not “in any of the named insured’s operations.”