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Employees Death In Car Accident Not Within The Scope Of Employment

In Scott-Pontzer v. Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co. (1999) case, an employee of Superior Dairy, Inc. was killed in an accident while operating a motor vehicle not within the scope of his employment owned by his wife. Id. at 661.

Superior Dairy, Inc. was insured under policies issued by Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Id.

The Liberty Mutual Fire policy has in Uninsured Motortists Coverage form that defines an "insured" for purposes of underinsured motorist coverage as follows:

"B. Who Is An Insured

  1. You.
  2. If you are an individual, any family member.
  3. Anyone else occupying a covered auto or a temporary substitute for a covered auto. The covered auto must be out of service because of its breakdown, repair, servicing, loss or destruction.
  4. Anyone for damages he or she is entitled to recover because of bodily injury sustain by another insured." Id. at 663.

The Court noted that "where provisions of a contract of insurance are reasonably susceptible of more than one interpretation, they will be construed strictly against the insurer and liberally in favor of the insured." Id. at 664, citing King v. Nationwide Ins. Co. (1988), 35 Ohio St. 3d 208, 519 N.E.2d 1380.

Additionally, the Court stated "That uninsured motorist coverage, mandated by law pursuant to R.C. 3937.18, was designed by the General Assembly to protect persons, not vehicles." 85 Ohio St. 3d at 664, citing Martin v. Midwestern Group Ins. Co. (1994), 70 Ohio St. 3d 478, 639 N.E.2d 438.

The Supreme Court in Scott-Pontzer, decided that the term "you" in the policy referred to Superior Dairy and Superior's employees. 85 Ohio St. 3d 660, 710 N.E.2d 1116.

The Court's rationale was that since a corporation acts only by and through live persons, it would be nonsensical to limit protection solely to the corporate entity. 85 Ohio St. 3d 660, 710 N.E.2d 1116.

A corporation cannot occupy an automobile, suffer bodily injury or death, or operate a motor vehicle, so the term "you" was ambiguous and it must include the corporate employees. 85 Ohio St. 3d 660, 710 N.E.2d 1116.

The Court further determined that the plaintiff received UIM coverage even though he was not acting within the scope of his employment because there was no exclusion saying otherwise. 85 Ohio St. 3d at 665-666.

The Court cited to King stating that "where exceptions, qualifications or exemptions are introduced into an insurance contract, a general presumption arises to the effect that that which is not clearly excluded from the operation of such contract is included in the operation thereof." 85 Ohio St. 3d at 665-666, citing King, 35 Ohio St. 3d at 214.

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