New London County Muual Insurance Company v. Nantes
The act of parking does not fail to be an employment of a car for some purpose of the user merely because the user performs the act negligently, as a homeowner did here by exiting the vehicle in her garage without turning it off. Armenui Dzhgalian and Aida Melikyan, medical school graduates and residents of California, participated in a month-long, unpaid internship at the Griffin Hospital. They paid hospital employee, Maria Nantes, to stay at her home and for transportation. Following one workday, Nantes drove Dzhgalian and Melikyan home, parked her car in the attached garage, exited the car without turning off the engine, closed the garage door and entered her house. Overnight, the house filled with carbon monoxide. Dzhgalian and Melikyan suffered serious injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning with additional injuries from Nantes dragging them unconscious out of the house. New London County Mutual Insurance Company which had issued a homeowner's insurance policy to Nantes disclaimed coverage relying on a policy exclusion for injuries "[a]rising out of . . . [t]he . . . use" of a motor vehicle. The insurer brought this declaratory judgment action against Nantes, Dzhgalian and Melikyan seeking a declaration that Nantes' policy did not cover the injuries. The trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment finding that the injuries fell within the policy exclusion. The defendants appealed raising multiple claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court properly granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The phrase "use . . . of motor vehicles" in Nantes' policy was unambiguous. Construed according to its natural and ordinary meaning, the phrase encompassed any employment of the motor vehicle for some purpose of the user. Transportation is one purpose for which a user might employ a motor vehicle, and parking is another. It was irrelevant that an arguably covered event, Nantes' closing of the garage door, was a contributing cause of the injuries. It was sufficient that Nantes' use of her car was connected to or created a condition that caused Dzhgalian's and Melikyan's injuries to bring them within the motor vehicle exclusion. Dzhgalian's and Melikyan's dragging injuries also arose out of the use of a motor vehicle because Nantes' negligent act of leaving her car running in the garage was the proximate cause of those injuries.