Commercial insurance company not obligated to pay family of child injured in accident

by Mandy Hicks

By Kyle Roby, Attorney and Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

The reported cases decided by the appellate courts sometimes come in batches of cases involving similar issues. Since a criminal case questioning the applicability of the death penalty, for example, involves an entirely different set of issues, research, and analysis than does a tort case arguing about liability in a medical malpractice lawsuit, there is judicial economy when the courts decide similar cases during the same time period.

Lately, it seems the courts have been faced with a number of cases involving whether or not a given situation is covered under a particular insurance policy. In the recent case of Auto-Owners Insurance Company v. Holland, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville was called upon to decide whether a commercial general liability insurance policy provided coverage in an accident in which a child was injured by the gate of a trailer that an insured used to transport lawn care equipment.

Facts of the Case

The insured owned a lawn care business in Huntland, Tennessee. In 2009, a two-year-old child who was visiting the home where the insured’s business was located was injured when the trailer gate of a truck and utility trailer used in the lawn care business fell open and struck the child in the head. The child’s mother filed suit against the insured, alleging that he was negligent in failing to keep the business premises safe, in maintaining the trailer gate in an unsafe condition, and in failing to warn of a dangerous condition. The mother also sued the insured’s parents, who owned the property where the business was located. The insurance company filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration that it did not have an obligation to provide coverage in either case. The trial court denied the insurer’s motion for summary judgment.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to enter an order granting summary judgment to the insurance company. Since the uncontested facts demonstrated that the insured was not engaged in an activity that constituted work or operations relating to the lawn care business at the time that the child was injured, the insurance company was not obligated to provide coverage. The court noted that the lawn care business had ceased for the day at the time of the accident and that the mere fact that the trailer had been used earlier in the day in the conduct of the business did not establish the causal nexus necessary for the insurer to have been obligated on the policy at issue.

For Help with an Injury or Wrongful Death Case

If you or a loved one has sustained an injury that you believe was caused by the negligence of an individual, business, or governmental entity, you should speak to a knowledgeable civil tort litigation attorney. The Kentucky and Tennessee injury and wrongful death attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley can help you navigate through the various issues and complications that can arise when you seek to recover compensation from the party that hurt you or your loved one. For a free initial consultation about your case, call me, attorney Kyle Roby, at (270) 781-6500, or e-mail me at We help clients throughout Bowling Green, Nashville, Hopkinsville, and other areas of south central Kentucky and middle Tennessee.

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