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“Tree Removal” Exclusion Not Applicable If The Tree Removal Operations Are Not “Active”

September 22, 2023

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The Eastern District held Hiscox Insurance could not use a “tree removal” exclusion clause in its policy issued to MRB Lawn Services to deny coverage when a motorcyclist collided with a boom lift that was improperly obstructing a public roadway. <em><a href="">Hiscox Insurance Co. v. MRB Lawn Services et al.</a>,</em> No. 22-cv-2827, 2023 WL 6050221 (E.D.PA. Sept. 15, 2023).The relevant tree exclusion in the policy stated coverage “does not apply to ‘bodily injury’ arising from ‘ongoing operations of tree removal.’”  The court scrutinized the “ongoing operations” language in the exclusion with U.S District Judge Kelley Hodge stating “the tree removal exclusion clause does not encompass bodily injury sustained in a collision occurring on a roadway between job sites where trees were not being removed, even if tree removal services occurred at nearby properties earlier in the day of the accident.” Given tree removal services were not happening when the decedent struck his head against the boom lift while trying to avoid it, the court sided with the policyholders and found that Hiscox must defend the action.

The judge clarified that Hiscox would have a better argument to deny coverage and if the boom lift was performing tree removal services on the roadway where the accident occurred. It did not matter whether the boom lift had been used for tree removal earlier in the day or whether it was going to be used for tree removal services later in the day. The only relevant inquiry for the tree removal exclusion is whether trees were being actively removed by the boom lift at the time of the accident.

Thanks to Anand Tayal for contributing to this article.  Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="">Tom Bracken</a>.


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