Because the liability insurance policy was a “nontrucking” policy, Great American Assurance Co. will not be liable in any underlying lawsuits resulting from a November 2019 crash.
A South Carolina judge ruled in the insurance company’s favor on Dec. 19.
The decision comes after a two-vehicle crash involving Isaac Stinson, who was employed as a truck driver for Smallbloc’s Mobile Transport. Stinson was hauling a load of timber.
According to court records, Stinson began driving for Smallbloc’s Mobile Transport approximately one week before the crash.
The crash on Nov. 4, 2019, involved Stinson driving a tractor-trailer loaded with timber and a bus owned by the South Carolina Department of Administration. The bus had six people in it, including the driver. Six underlying lawsuits were filed following the crash.
In January 2022, Great American Assurance Co. filed a second amended complaint seeking a decision that there is no coverage under the policy it issued to Billy J. Smith, owner of Smallbloc’s Mobile Transport. That declaration was sought on the basis that the policy provided “nontrucking” coverage. Great American Assurance Co. argued it was “undisputed that Stinson was transporting cargo for hire at the time of the accident.”
None of the defendants filed a response to the motion filed by Great American Assurance Co. for summary judgment. However, the court was still required to review the motion.
“Under South Carolina law, insurance policies are subject to the general rules of contract construction,” the court said. “When a contract is unambiguous, clear and explicit, it must be construed according to the terms the parties have used.”
Great American Assurance Co. contends the policy it entered into with Smallbloc’s Mobile Transport only afforded coverage for nontrucking use. It does not cover “anyone engaged in the business of transporting property for hire.”
Court documents show Great American Assurance Co. adequately explained its policy with Smallbloc’s Mobile Transport does not apply in the following instances:
“Bodily injury” or “property damage” arising out of any “accident” which occurs while the covered “auto” is being used in the business of any “lessee” or while the covered “auto” is being used to transport cargo of any type. For purposes of this exclusion the phrase “in the business of any lessee” means any of the following uses of the covered auto:
While traveling to or from any location for the purpose of picking up, delivering, or transporting cargo on behalf of any lessee.
Additionally, court records said Stinson testified that Smith instructed him to pick up timber from Coleman Bros. Logging LLC at a log site in Blair, S.C., and transport it to International Paper-Eastover Mill on behalf of Coleman Bros. Stinson then returned to the same logging site to pick up another load.
The court’s ruling stated, “Because the facts in this care are undisputed that Stinson was transporting cargo, a load of timber, and being compensated for doing so, this court finds the policy exclusions apply to preclude coverage for all claims arising out of the accident and asserted against Stinson, Smith, or Smallbloc’s Mobile Transport.” LL
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