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Ruling from Eleventh Circuit Affirming Summary Judgment to Trucking Insurer in Declaratory Judgment Action – Fred Valz, Melissa Bailey

January 27, 2016

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirms summary judgment to a trucking insurer in a declaratory judgment action, finding there was no coverage for the claims made by the excluded driver under the $1 million policy for injuries to a truck driver who was driving for the insured company as an independent contractor. A truck driver was severely injured while his tractor trailer was being loaded at a third-party location. He filed suit against a number of entities, including the company for which he was driving as an independent contractor. The insurer filed a declaratory judgment action arguing that there was no coverage for the claims made by the excluded driver because he was an excluded employee under the language of policy. The policy did not define the term employee, but it did contain an MCS-90 endorsement. We argued on behalf of the insurer that “employee” should be defined in accordance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”) to include statutory employees and independent contractors, which would exclude coverage for the injured truck driver. The Southern District of Georgia agreed and granted summary judgment to the insurer. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the truck driver was an employee as defined by FMCSR and the definition controlled the use of the term “employee” in the policy. For that reason, there was no coverage for the claims made by the excluded driver under his employer’s policy.

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