The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that an insurer had no duty to indemnify an employee under his employer’s commercial automobile policy in a tort action when there was no evidence that the employee had the employer’s permission to commit homicide. Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am. v. Moore, 2014 WL 3953944 (11th Cir. Aug.14, 2014).
The insurer provided a commercial automobile policy to the insured, a lottery-machine service company. The insured provided a company vehicle to an employee. The insured did not allow employees to use company vehicles for personal use. The policy provided insurance for those using a company vehicle with the insured’s permission. The underlying claimants came to the employee’s house to repossess his personal vehicle. The employee used the company vehicle to follow the claimants and accidently shot the claimants with a shotgun, killing one and wounding the other. His employer’s insurer filed a declaratory judgment action to determine whether there was a duty to indemnify the employee under the insured’s commercial automobile policy against the lawsuit by the victims. Finding that the insured regularly failed to enforce its personal use policy, the district court held the employee to be an insured under the policy. The insurer appealed.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded. It found that, even with the insured’s loose enforcement of its personal use policy, it was not reasonable to infer that any grant of permission to use the company vehicle encompassed permission for its use and aid in the commission of a felony. Thus, it held the employee was not an insured under the policy and that the insurer was not required to defend and indemnify him.