Coverage Quiz: Is Dip In Raw Sewage During Test Drive Covered?

When I was in high school, my math teacher suggested the best way for us to get really good at math was to run numbers through our heads at times where our minds were otherwise unoccupied, like driving tractor somewhere off in a field all day (this was a rural area in NoDak where there was hardly a kid in school whose parents didn’t farm).  The idea was that if you practiced long enough at, say, multiplying 1,356 times 1,099, math would start to get a lot easier.  Right.  You know how far that went.  I tried it once. If there is anything more boring than sitting on a tractor 12 hours a day it’s multiplying large numbers while sitting on a tractor.

However, I find it a lot more interesting to run coverage problems through my head.  This post on a message board caught my eye.  A couple intended to sell a motorcycle to an acquaintance.  Before sealing the deal, he wanted to take a test drive.  According to the post, here is what happened next:

He didn’t even make it out of the driveway and shot across the street and into the ditch totally submerging the moto in raw sewage.

The buyer then reneged on the deal and threatened to sue, inducing panic in the couple about whether they are covered when the lawsuit hits.  What do you think?

I don’t know specifically what their policy says, and I can’t quite make out what country they are in, but the first step in my analysis would be this question: why is there raw sewage in a ditch across from their house? 

This is probably not covered under a homeowners policy because it involves the use of a motor vehicle.  Under a vehicle policy, it looks like we’re talking about a liability claim rather than a first-party medical claim.  Even though the driver was a permissive user, that probably is relevant only if he had collided with a third person and injured them.  In that case, the couple would have been covered for claims made by the injured person.  Whether he was a permissive user isn’t really relevant, however, to whether the couple is covered against liability to him as a result of his operation of their vehicle. 

I’ve seen some test drive cases, but those involved the liability of a dealership to a person who was injured by the negligent test driver, so I’m not sure I’ve seen this issue addressed before.  Consider this: if the bike had merely rolled off the kickstand and knocked this guy into the raw sewage, they’d be covered, because the injuries arose out of their negligent operation of the vehicle.  But here, injuries arose out of the guy’s own negligent operation, so does that make a difference?  I checked my own auto policy, and it says that I’m covered for liability for bodily injuries that arise out of the "ownership, maintenance or use" of a private passenger automobile.  So if that’s what their policy says, I say they are covered.  Liability clearly arose out of their ownership of the bike.  They get a defense under the policy, which is the important thing, because this guy’s injuries could evaporate like the morning mist, not to mention the issue of his own comparative negligence. 

Anyone have another opinion? Think it over on the tractor today.

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