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Driver’s Personal Auto Insurance Not Liable for Death of Florida Baby in Daycare Vehicle

vanLeaving children at a daycare can be a tough decision for many parents. However, for many working parents, daycare is the only option. When parents make this decision, they expect their children will be taken care of. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. If your child has been hurt or killed due to a careless daycare facility, it is important to speak to a qualified Miami injury attorney who can help you get the justice you deserve.

In Bryant v. Windhaven Insurance Co., a van driver employed by a local daycare picked up an infant and other children to take to the daycare center. When he arrived at the daycare, he took all the children inside except for the infant. The driver had forgotten the infant was in the car. The infant remained in the vehicle for several hours and died as a result of the summer heat.

Following the tragic incident, the deceased infant’s parents filed a wrongful death claim against the daycare, the daycare’s landlord, and the driver of the van. The driver pursued defense and coverage from his personal auto insurance policy, despite the fact that the death took place in the daycare’s van. The driver’s insurer approved coverage but did so under a reservation of rights, meaning the insurance company reserved the right to deny coverage at a later time.

The insurer subsequently filed a declaratory action saying that the policy did not cover the child’s death. The insurer referred to two specific exclusions in the insurance policy. Firstly, one provision stated that the policy wouldn’t cover any automobile used during the course and scope of the driver’s employment. Secondly, the insurer would not absorb any liability for the regular use of an automobile other than the insured’s covered vehicle.

The trial court granted the insurance company’s declaratory judgment on the regular use exclusion but denied it with regards to the employment use exclusion. The estate and the insurer appealed.

The Third District Court of Appeal noted that the regular use exclusion was applicable, permitting the insurer to deny coverage to the van driver. When it came to the employment use exclusion, the court applied a multi-prong test to determine whether the infant’s death took place as a result of the driver’s “use” of the automobile. According to the test, the accident must arise from the automobile’s inherent nature and must take place within the “natural territorial limits of an automobile.” The second prong of the test mandates that the use of the automobile, including unloading and loading, must not have stopped. Finally, the automobile must be the actual cause of the harm, not just a contributing cause.

Under the test, the court decided that the first part of the test was met because the death of the infant was the result of the driver’s use of the van to transport the child. The second prong was also met because the child’s death was a result of unloading the van. As for the third prong, the court found that the van was the reason for the child’s death.

It is important to note that the court’s decision does not preclude the estate from seeking compensation from the daycare facility or even the driver. It simply means that the van driver’s personal auto insurance policy will not have to pay.

If your child was harmed at a daycare facility, the skilled Miami wrongful death lawyers at the Law Offices of Robert Dixon can assess the merits of your case. We will analyze the facts of your situation and try to get you the maximum amount of compensation possible under the law. We proudly represent clients throughout South Florida. For more information, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us through our website.

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