University of Vermont AAHS

Doyle v. Pawtucket Mutual Insurance Co.


New York Appellate Division
243 A.D.2d 603, 667 N.Y.S.2d 755
November 20, 1997


Summary of Opinion

Michael Doyle was injured while taking a riding lesson from Mary Donner. He sued her, claiming she was negligent in not properly matching him with the horse. Mary Donner sued Dolores Doyle, the owner of the horse, who was also Michael’s wife, claiming she was responsible for the accident. Dolores, in turn, sued her homeowner’s insurance company, claiming it had the obligation to defend her from the suit by Mary and pay any judgment that might be obtained.

The insurance company said it was not required to pay and defend because of a clause in the policy that excluded any of the insured, which included Michael, from claiming under the policy as an injured person.

The trial court rejected this argument on the ground that the claimant under the policy was Mary, the riding instructor, not Michael, her student, because Mary was claiming reimbursement for her liability to Michael. The Appellate Division agreed with this decision and affirmed the trial court.

Sounds a little like an equine version of a soap opera, doesn’t it?


Text of Opinion


In an action, inter alia, for a judgment declaring that the defendant Pawtucket Mutual Insurance Company must defend and indemnify the plaintiff as a third-party defendant in an action entitled Doyle v. Donner d/b/a Springvale Farms, pending in Supreme Court, Rockland County (Index No. 1027/95), the defendant Pawtucket Mutual Insurance Company appeals from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Rockland County (Bergerman, J.), dated October 2, 1996, which declared that it was obligated to provide the plaintiff with the requested defense and indemnification.

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, with costs.

On October 18, 1992, Michael Doyle was injured while taking a horseback riding lesson from Mary Donner. A lawsuit was commenced alleging that Donner failed to match Mr. Doyle with a proper horse. Donner commenced a third-party action against Dolores Doyle, Michael Doyle's wife and the plaintiff in the instant declaratory judgment action, for contribution and indemnification on the ground that the horse upon which Mr. Doyle was riding at the time of the accident was owned by her. Dolores Doyle sought coverage under her homeowner's policy issued by the appellant. After the appellant disclaimed coverage, the instant declaratory judgment action was commenced.

Contrary to the appellant's contentions, the Supreme Court properly concluded that the policy provision excluding from coverage injuries to named insureds was not applicable under the circumstances of this case. Notwithstanding that the underlying incident resulted in injury to the plaintiff's husband and that he qualifies as an insured under the policy, the policy exclusion does not exclude Mary Donner's third-party claims for indemnification in a third-party action arising from the same injury (see, Campanile v. State Farm Gen. Ins. Co., 161 A.D.2d 1052, 558 N.Y.S.2d 203, affd. 78 N.Y.2d 912, 573 N.Y.S.2d 463, 577 N.E.2d 1055 for reasons stated below; see also, Graphic Arts Mut. Ins. Co. v. Bakers Mut. Ins. Co., 45 N.Y.2d 551, 410 N.Y.S.2d 571, 382 N.E.2d 1347; Allstate Ins. Co. v. Pestar, 168 A.D.2d 931, 564 N.Y.S.2d 892; Kimball v. Chautauqua Patrons' Ins. Assn., 158 A.D.2d 983, 550 N.Y.S.2d 968). The appellant's reliance upon Commissioners of State Ins. Fund v. Insurance Co. of N. Am., 80 N.Y.2d 992, 592 N.Y.S.2d 648, 607 N.E.2d 795, is misplaced. In that case, the policy exclusion was broadly worded to exclude all claims arising from bodily injuries to employees and thus the employer's claim for indemnification against a third-party claim fell within the exclusion (see also, North Riv. Ins. Co. v. United Natl. Ins. Co., 81 N.Y.2d 812, 595 N.Y.S.2d 377, 611 N.E.2d 278). Here, however, the relevant provision is narrowly drafted to exclude from coverage only direct claims of bodily injury by insureds (see, Campanile v. State Farm Gen. Ins. Co., supra). As such, it does not clearly and unmistakably exclude the defense and indemnification of third-party claims, even where they arise as a result of an injury to an insured (see, Seaboard Sur. Co. v. Gillette Co., 64 N.Y.2d 304, 311, 486 N.Y.S.2d 873, 476 N.E.2d 272; Allstate Ins. Co. v. Pestar, supra; Kimball v. Chautauqua Patrons' Ins. Assn., supra). Furthermore, the plaintiff did provide prompt, timely notification of the third-party action under the circumstances presented. Therefore, the court correctly declared that the appellant was obligated to defend and indemnify the plaintiff.

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