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Endorsement clause makes insurance policy ambiguous

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Describing an insurance company’s policy as “inherently ambiguous,” the Indiana Court of Appeals has reserved the summary judgment granted by the trial court.

The COA agreed with the appellants that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Indiana Insurance Co. because the umbrella policy contained contradictions. In Gary Hammerstone, Susan Hammerstone, Palmor Products, Inc., Northhampton Farm Bureau Cooperative Association, and Cannis-Bilco Distributors, Inc., v. Indiana Insurance Co., 06A04-1211-PL-595, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order and remanded for more proceedings.

Gary Hammerstone severely injured his right hand and arm while trying to unclog the Trac-Vac, a vacuuming device for yard debris like mulched leaves, grass and sticks. In December 2009, he and his wife, Susan, filed a complaint in Pennsylvania against Palmor Products, which designs and manufactures the vacuum, and Northhampton Farm Bureau Cooperative, which sells and services the Trac-Vac. Later Cannis-Bilco Distributors, a distributor of Palmor, was added as a defendant.

Hammerstone alleged Palmor, Northhampton and CBD were, among other things, negligent; failed to property warn of the hazards of the Trac-Vac; and failed to adequately inspect the machine for defects.

Indiana Insurance, the primary insurer of Palmor, filed motions for summary judgment against Palmor, Northhampton and CBD as well as the Hammerstones. The appellants subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment against Indiana Insurance.

In appealing the trial court’s order, the appellants argue the lower court erred when it found the insurance company’s umbrella policy unambiguously denied covered. They alleged the policy was ambiguous because the declarations page clearly stated the policy included coverage for products-completed operations hazard but later language maintained the coverage did not apply to injuries and damages included within the operations hazard.

The COA found the umbrella policy contains an endorsement that contradicts its language defining products-completed operations hazard as “bodily injury” and “property damage.”

“Thus the Umbrella Policy states that it both provides $2,000,000 of coverage for products-complete operations and that the insurance does not apply to products-completed operations hazard injuries,” Judge James Krisch wrote for the court. “As a result, the Umbrella Policy is inherently ambiguous.”

 



 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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