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Motor Vehicle Liability Exclusion in Homeowners Policy Bars Coverage for Child’s Hot Car Death

In a case of first impression and recognizing the tragic circumstances surrounding the child’s death, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit concluded that the firm’s client did not cover the accident, reversing the trial court’s ruling. The facts were undisputed in that the child remained in the car seat’s harness in the rear of the vehicle that was parked in the insured’s residential driveway for over six hours, when the external temperatures were ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit. In a detailed decision, the Fifth Circuit determined that the child’s death was not covered because the policy excluded coverage for injuries arising out of: (1) the occupancy of a vehicle; (2) the unloading of a vehicle; (3) the use of the vehicle; and (4) the failure to supervise or negligent supervision by any person involving a vehicle.

For the first time, a Louisiana appellate court addressed the terms “arising out of the occupancy” of a vehicle and the “loading or unloading” of a vehicle holding that both exclusionary provisions were unambiguous and excluded coverage under the policy. The court went on to further discuss why Louisiana’s test for “use of a vehicle” had been satisfied based on the duty-risk analysis required under Louisiana law. Finally, the court explained why the exclusionary provision “failure to supervise or negligent supervision of any person involving such vehicle” was unambiguous and why the facts of the case fell squarely within this exclusion, serving as a fourth basis as to why the accident was not covered. Given the depth and breadth of the court’s analysis with respect to the exclusionary provisions, this case will most certainly be one that is highlighted by insurers in future litigation.

Trial Team: Alexis Joachim and Katie Roth


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