RENEE MARTINEZ v. EMPIRE FIRE & MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY, SC 19390

Judicial District of New Haven

 

      Insurance; Commercial Auto Liability Coverage; Whether Liability Under Federally Mandated MCS-90 Endorsement Triggered Because Truck was Being Operated “For-Hire” While Transporting Property in Interstate Commerce.  The plaintiff was injured in an accident involving a truck owned by Tony’s Longwharf, LLC (Tony’s).  At the time of the accident, the truck was being operated by a Tony’s employee who was transporting motor vehicle parts from a facility in Hamden to Tony’s facility in New Haven, where the employee was to use the parts to repair other vehicles owned by Tony’s.  The plaintiff recovered a $693,025.69 judgment against Tony’s.  When the judgment remained unsatisfied, the plaintiff brought this action against Tony’s insurer pursuant to General Statutes § 38a-321, claiming that the insurer was liable for the unpaid judgment.  The defendant moved for summary judgment, asserting that the truck had been removed from the insurance policy as a covered vehicle prior to the accident.  The plaintiff countered that a federally mandated “MCS-90 endorsement” attached to the policy obligated the defendant to pay the judgment even though the truck was not listed on the policy as a covered vehicle.  Pursuant to the financial responsibility requirements mandated by the federal Motor Carrier Act, the endorsement must be attached to any liability policy issued to “for-hire” motor carriers operating motor vehicles transporting property in interstate commerce.  The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of the defendant, finding that the endorsement was not triggered because Tony’s was not transporting goods in interstate commerce at the time of the accident.  The Appellate Court (151 Conn. App. 213) affirmed the trial court’s judgment on the alternative ground that the endorsement was not triggered because there was no genuine issue of material fact that Tony’s was not operating the truck “for-hire” at the time of the accident.  The court noted that, to be considered a “for-hire” motor carrier, an insured must be transporting, for compensation, the goods or property of another, and that here there was no dispute that, at the time of the accident, Tony’s was transporting its own property for its own benefit and without receiving compensation from a third party.  The plaintiff appeals, claiming the Appellate Court wrongly ruled that Tony’s was not operating the vehicle “for-hire” at the time of the accident.  The defendant disagrees and contends that the Appellate Court’s judgment can be affirmed on the alternative ground that the truck was not engaged in interstate commerce at the time of the accident that gave rise to the plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit.