Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Superior Court discusses "arising out of"

My first foray into insurance coverage issues was when, as a young insurance defense associate, I argued the meaning of the phrase "arising out of" in an insurance policy to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. I convinced the court that the phrase denoted intermediate causation--more than causation-in-fact but less than proximate cause--such that a construction site accident injuring the employee of the insured subcontractor "arose out of" the subcontractor's work even though the subcontractor did not proximately cause the accident.

Mike Tracy of Rudolph Friedmann LLP has sent me over the latest foray into "arising out of."

In Massachusetts Property Ins. Underwriting Ass'n v. Gallagher, 2009 WL 2568547, 18 year old Stephen McMaster died in an apparent suicide after ingesting an overdose of propoxyphene. Gallagher's mother sued Scaduto, alleging that Scaduto had negligently left the drug in a place in his home accessible to McMaster, despite knowing of McMaster's fragile emotional state. At issue in the Massachusetts Superior Court was whether Scaduto was covered by his homeowner's policy.

The policy excluded bodily injury "arising out of the use, sale, manufacture, delivery, transfer or possession by any person of [] Controlled Substance(s). . . . However, this exclusion does not apply to the legitimate use of prescription drugs by a person following the orders of a licensed physician."

The court noted that the phrase "arising out of" suggests causation analogous to "but for" causation.

It rejected Gallagher's argument that McMaster's death came within the exception to the exclusion because it "arose out of" Scaduto's legitimate prescription use of the drug.

The court held that there was a "separate and independent" application of the exclusion to McMaster's own use of the drug. McMaster's use of the drug came within the exclusion and did not fall within the exception. There was therefore no coverage under the policy.

1 comment:

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