A life insurance company has been ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to pay a $200,000 medical bill for an insured who reportedly crashed his dirt bike while under the influence of alcohol.
The life insurance carrier outright denied claimant’s bid for benefits, citing policy exclusion for injuries that arise from the “illegal use of alcohol.” However, the district court ruled – and the appellate court affirmed – this provision, when read and interpreted according to its ordinary meaning, refers to things like drinking alcohol while under the age of 21 or imbibing against a court order. It is inherently different, the court ruled, than engaging in illegal conduct after one has legally consumed the alcohol. That would mean actions like drunk driving would still be covered; it’s not the drinking that was against the law, it was the actions one took after drinking – something not specifically excluded in the policy language.
This case is interesting for a few reasons. The first is that it is not your typical car accident lawsuit in that it involves dirt bikes and it happened off-road. Secondly, this was not a plaintiff claiming injury as a result of someone else’s negligence. He conceded his own misconduct caused his injuries. Nonetheless, he argued his life insurance company should be responsible to cover his damages.
According to court records, plaintiff was 22-years-old – of the legal drinking age – five years ago when he and his friend drank alcohol and then proceeded to ride their dirt bikes in a field near their home. While engaging in this, the two crashed. Plaintiff suffered serious injuries. It was ascertained that his blood-alcohol level shortly after the crash was almost nearly twice the legal limit for use of an off-road vehicle in that state. Continue reading →