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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. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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