Lots of interesting things happening in New York’s courts lately. To keep this post short, I'll just cover two of them for now. Here’s a quick rundown:
The Associated Press reported Monday about a Nassau County man who has been charged with vehicular homicide, despite the fact that he was not driving at the time of the October 2012 fatal accident. The man allegedly was intoxicated when the car he was driving struck a car on the Long Island Expressway. He stopped the car down the road in the high occupancy lane, where it was struck by another car. This turned his car sideways. An SUV driver failed to spot the sideways car and hit it, then struck and killed a police officer who had arrived to investigate. The guy who started it all was allegedly leaning against a guardrail at the time the officer was killed.
Prosecutors claim that the man is culpable because a fatal accident was a foreseeable result of his actions. His blood alcohol level at the time of the accidents as 0.13; the New York State threshold for intoxication is 0.08. He has been indicted on 16 counts, including aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter, DWI and other charges. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. His attorney says the prosecutors have overreached.
An appellate court in New York City upheld a claim denial against a contractor two weeks ago. The contractor’s Commercial General Liability insurance policy included an endorsement that limited coverage only to losses arising out of the classifications listed in the Declarations – “Carpentry – interior”; “Dry Wall or Wallboard Installation”; and two classifications for subcontracted work. One of the contractor’s employees was injured while demolishing a chimney in a Long Island City building. The employee sued the general contractor, who was an additional insured under his employer’s policy.
The contractor’s insurer denied coverage for both the GC and the contractor because demolition work was not within any of the classifications on the policy. The court agreed with the insurer, despite the fact that two months elapsed before the insurer denied coverage. If the determining policy provision had been an exclusion, New York law would have forced the insurer to cover the claim because of the delay. Because the loss did not fall within the policy’s coverage without an exclusion, the court ruled that the delay did not matter.
To sum up, you can be prosecuted in New York for a vehicular offense if your conduct with a vehicle led to a serious accident. Also, classification limitation endorsements on contractors' CGL policies are a real thing. Insurance producers should be concerned about them. They might be on your clients' policies.
More cases to report on soon.