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The Four Corners Of A Complaint Are Still Key In The Keystone State

March 22, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="">Encompass Home and Auto Insurance Co. v. Denenberg</a></em>, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Court granted Summary Judgment in favor of a home and auto insurance company, finding no duty to defend because the circumstances surrounding the alleged injury were not covered under the policy. In brief, Defendant David Denenberg owned a company that bought, sold, and rented residential real estate. Denenberg ordered a stove from Sears and hired Richard Kearn’s company to pick up the stove and deliver it. James Thornton, an employee of Kearn, drove a pickup truck to transport the stove. It is alleged that Christopher Gittens, an employee of Sears, was injured after Thornton’s vehicle’s hatch struck his head while Gittens was loading the stove into onto the vehicle. The vehicle was not listed on Denenberg’s Encompass Home and Auto Insurance automobile insurance policy.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Encompass filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a declaration it had no duty to defend or indemnify Denenberg in Gittens’ subsequent lawsuit. Denenberg conceded that the language of the policy did not cover the incident but contended the policy’s umbrella coverage was applicable. The umbrella policy, however, explicitly stated that “[b]odily injury or property damage arising out of the ... loading or unloading of any motor vehicle” was not covered.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Pennsylvania courts have consistently held that the language of the underlying complaint dictates in insurance coverage matters. Therefore, the Court looked to the four corners of the complaint in assessing whether Encompass had a duty to defend Denenberg. The Court ultimately found no duty given the facts pleaded in the complaint and the policy’s prohibition on claims arising out of injuries sustained from loading/unloading vehicles.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In sum, this opinion reiterates the importance of the facts pleaded in a complaint when analyzing an insurer’s duty to defend.</p>
Thanks to Rachel Thompson for her contribution to this post.  Please email Colleen Hayes with any questions at <a href=""></a>


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