NEW LONDON COUNTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY v. MARIA V. NANTES et al., SC 18758/18759
Judicial District of Ansonia/Milford
Insurance; Declaratory Judgment; Personal Jurisdiction; Homeowners Policy; Motor Vehicle Exclusion; Concurrent Causes Doctrine; Whether Trial Court Properly Found That Claimants' Injuries Arose out of "Use of a Motor Vehicle." In February, 2007, Maria Nantes left the engine of her car running in the closed garage of her Connecticut home, causing carbon monoxide to seep into the living quarters. Two residents of California, who were staying with Nantes while completing one-month medical internships, suffered injuries from inhaling carbon monoxide and from being dragged out of the house by Nantes. The plaintiff, which had issued a homeowner's policy to Nantes, denied coverage for the injured individuals' personal injury claims based on the policy’s motor vehicle exclusion. Thereafter, the defendants - Nantes and the injured individuals - reached a settlement agreement under which Nantes assigned to them her rights under the policy and they agreed to submit the matter to binding arbitration. The plaintiff then filed this declaratory judgment action, claiming that there was no coverage under the policy due to the exclusion for claims arising out of the "use of a motor vehicle." The defendants moved to dismiss the action on several grounds, one of which was that Connecticut lacked personal jurisdiction over the injured parties because they did not transact any business in the state. The trial court found that their conduct relating to the internship constituted the transaction of business under the long-arm statute, General Statutes § 52-59b. The defendants later moved to strike the complaint on the basis that the action constituted a misuse of the declaratory judgment statute because the plaintiff, having already refused to defend and indemnify in the underlying negligence action, was not seeking a determination of future rights and obligations. The court denied the motion to strike. The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that, as a matter of law, it owed no duty to defend or indemnify Nantes. The court granted the motion, finding that the injuries arose out of the use of the motor vehicle because they were “connected with,” “had their origins in,” “grew out of,” “flowed from,” or “were incident to” Nantes’ use of the vehicle. As to the defendants’ further argument that the injuries were caused by a combination of negligent acts, including the closing of the garage door, the court found, among other things, that Connecticut has not adopted the concurrent cause doctrine. Hence, it did not consider that doctrine in determining the plaintiff’s liability under the policy. The court also rejected the defendants’ argument that the dragging injuries were covered under the policy, finding no issue of fact that those injuries were not sufficiently “connected with” the use of the automobile that created the condition that caused the carbon monoxide injuries. The defendants now appeal, challenging the above rulings.