In Matter of Allstate v. Reyes, the Appellate Division, Second Department, was faced with an unusual case in which it had to determine just how liberally it was willing to interpret coverage provided in automobile policies for injuries arising out of the “ownership, maintenance, or use” of the motor vehicle. Deborah Reyes was walking in front of a Sunoco Mart in Poughkeepsie, New York, when she brushed past a parked car with its windows down. A Rottweiler poked its head out from inside the vehicle and bit Reyes on her right breast.
Reyes brought an action against the owner of the vehicle, which was settled for $25,000 – the limits of the GEICO policy insuring the owner. Reyes next turned to her own auto insurer, Allstate Insurance Company, to recover under the supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist endorsement. Determining that Reyes’s injuries did not arise “out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of an underinsured vehicle,” Allstate denied coverage. Reyes sought arbitration, which Allstate petitioned to permanently stay. But the trial court allowed the matter to proceed to arbitration because it held the injuries arose “out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of an underinsured vehicle.”
The Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed the trial court and held that the injuries were not covered under the Allstate policy. The court ruled that “[t]o satisfy the requirement that it arose out of the ‘ownership, maintenance or use of’ a motor vehicle, the accident must have arisen out of the inherent nature of the automobile and, as such, inter alia, the automobile must not merely contribute to the condition which produces the injury, but must, itself, produce the injury.” The court found that Reyes’ injuries did not result from the vehicle itself or its inherent nature, but instead the dog was the cause of her injuries.
Thanks to Steve Kaye for his contribution to this post. If you would like more information, please write to Mike Bono.