Legal Memorandum: Automobile Insurance Policy Limitations

Issue: Under Missouri law, is an auto insurance policy limited to collisions or accidents resulting from transportation-related uses of the care?

Area of Law: Insurance Law
Keywords: Automobile insurance policy; Limitations; Transportation-related uses of the car
Jurisdiction: Missouri
Cited Cases: 533 So. 2d 809; 731 P.2d 134; 240 So. 2d 408; 229 N.W.2d 516; 544 So. 2d 201; 353 Mo. 213; 411 P.2d 616; 182 S.W.2d 181; 807 S.W.2d 87; 331 N.W.2d 917; 288 S.E.2d 856; 521 A.2d 308; 711 S.W.2d 198; 599 S.W.2d 13
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2001

          No case was found so limiting this type of policy, and Missouri courts have construed the policy more generously to the insured, more reasonably to the policy language.  In Fidelity & Casualty Co. v. Wrather, 652 S.W.2d 245 (Mo. Ct. App. 1983) the insured, a farmer named Wrather, intentionally started a fire to burn off wheat stubble by dragging a burning tire behind his station wagon through the wheat field.  He did not intend the fire to cause as much smoke as it did, and, unfortunately, the drivers of vehicles on the nearby highway could not see the road or other vehicles due to the smoke and were therefore involved in a series of collisions.  These drivers sued Wrather and he turned to his insurer which denied coverage on two grounds:  that dragging the tire was not an accident, and that the damage did not arise out of the use of Wrather’s automobile.  The court rejected both arguments, noting that “[t]he instant record entitled the trial court to find that Nanney’s damage (and the highway collision or collisions) results from Wrather’s use of his station wagon.”  Id. at 250.  The court’s reasoning, controlling in this case, is worth quoting at length.  The Wrather court relied heavily on Schmidt v. Utilities Ins. Co., 353 Mo. 213, 182 S.W.2d 181 (Mo. 1944), in which

[a] pedestrian was injured by falling over blocks which had been used by the employees of the insured coal company in backing the insured truck […]

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