Fatal Discharge Of Shotgun In Pickup Was Not Covered As Arising Out Of Use Of Vehicle

The death of a woman, who was killed when her husband was taking two shotguns from the rear seat of their pickup and one of the guns went off, was not covered under the family’s auto policy, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled. The case is Peagler v. USAA Insurance Co., 2006 WL 697605 (March 20, 2006).
The personal representative of the woman argued that the death arose of the “maintenance, ownership or use” of the vehicle and was therefore a covered accident under the policy. The court examined a large number of cases in which firearms were discharged in and from vehicles, or the vehicles were used in some criminal activity such as a sexual assault. When the vehicle was merely the situs of the harm, and not a contributor to it, the court said, there is no coverage. Despite cases from other jurisdictions in which the accidental discharge of guns during loading or unloading was found to be covered, the court said removing the shotguns from the pickup did not mean the truck was “an active accessory” to the death.

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