After discovering that two men were in the process of repossessing his personal vehicle, Justin Maurice Moore began to pursue the men in a van owned and provided by his employer for his work use. The van was insured under a commercial automobile insurance policy supplied by Travelers Property Casualty Company of America and subject to Rhode Island law. Moore’s pursuit ultimately ended in gunfire, with Moore unintentionally firing a shotgun at the tow truck operators, killing one and injuring the other. Travelers sought a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to indemnify Moore for his personal, criminal use of the van. The district court granted summary judgment against Travelers, finding that Moore had permission to use his employer’s vehicle and was therefore an “insured” under the terms of the policy. The district court also found that because the shooting was an “accident” as defined by the policy, and the injury caused was neither “expected” nor “intended,” Travelers was obligated to indemnify Moore. Travelers appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that under the terms of the policy, as commonly defined and understood, Moore did not have “permission” to use his employer’s van under these circumstances. The Court reasoned that the district court mistakenly relied on a Rhode Island statute which creates a presumption of consent in cases where the registered owner of a vehicle is not the driver, but is a defendant to a civil suit. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that because Moore’s employer was not named as a defendant, and because the Rhode Island statute had not previously been used to define terms under an insurance contract, the statute had no bearing on whether Moore had his employer’s “permission” within the meaning of the policy The Court held that under the employer’s restrictive use policy, it was not reasonable for Moore to infer that he had “permission” to use the vehicle for his own personal, criminal acts. Accordingly, the Court reversed for a judgment in Travelers’ favor because Moore was not an “insured” under the policy and, therefore, coverage was lacking.
Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am. v. Moore, No. 13-14413, 2014 WL 3953944 (11th Cir., Aug. 14, 2014).