Marcolini v. Allstate Ins. Co.

Decision Date13 January 1971
Citation160 Conn. 280,65 A.L.R.3d 846,278 A.2d 796
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Parties, 65 A.L.R.3d 846 Alfred J. MARCOLINI, Jr., et al. v. ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY.

Lewis C. Maruzo, with whom was Marvin M. Horwitz, Norwich, for appellants (plaintiffs).

William W. Sprague, with whom were James T. Haviland, II, Hartford, and, on the brief, John R. Fitzgerald, Hartford, for appellee (defendant).

Before ALCORN, C.J., and HOUSE, THIM, RYAN and SHAPIRO, JJ.

SHAPIRO, Associate Justice.

The plaintiffs, Alfred J. Marcolini, Sr., and Alfred J. Marcolini, Jr., father and minor son, sought a declaratory judgment determining whether a motorcycle is an automobile as the term 'automobile' is used in an insurance policy issued by the defendant to the father. The plaintiffs and the defendant filed separate motions, each accompanied by supporting affidavits and each seeking a summary judgment. Thereafter, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion but granted the defendant's motion and declared that a motorcycle is not an automobile within the meaning of the policy. From the judgment rendered thereon, the plaintiffs have appealed.

The facts are not in dispute. The named plaintiff was injured while riding as a passenger on a motorcycle, owned by Anselma Berthod and being operated by her son, Gerald, when it collided with another vehicle. An insurance policy covering the motorcycle contained a passenger hazard exclusion clause which precluded liability coverage in favor of the plaintiffs. The father's insurance policy, under which recovery was sought in the below, contained a provision for coverage against bodily injury caused by uninsured automobiles. 1

The plaintiffs' position is that although the defendant denies inclusion of a 'motorcycle' in its uninsured motorist provision, it used ambiguous language more calculated to conceal its intention than to express it, and that this ambiguity should be resolved against it. They seek, therefore, to have us apply the favorable construction rule. See A. M. Larson Co. v. Lawlor Ins. Agency, Inc., 153 Conn. 618, 622, 220 A.2d 32; Scranton v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 141 Conn. 313, 315, 105 A.2d 780. They assert also that the policy should be construed to include the Berthod motorcycle for the reason that under the doctrine of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, all automotive vehicles not specifically excluded in the policy were meant to be included in its coverage. They make no claim that, in a literal sense, a motorcycle is the same as an automobile.

The portion of the policy recited in the footnote makes it clear that the defendant will pay to the insured all sums which he is legally entitled to recover as damages resulting from the operation of 'an uninsured automobile' and arising out of that automobile's ownership, maintenance or use. The definition of 'uninsured automobile' is stated unequivocally to mean 'an automobile.' What is not included under 'an uninsured automobile' is specifically defined and enumerated. Because 'motorcycles' are not recited as a distinct exception, the plaintiffs claim they are included in the coverage. None of the items described in the exclusionary clause can be confused with motorcycles and the plaintiffs make no such claim.

The determinative question is the intent of the parties, that is, what coverage the plaintiff-father expected to receive and what the defendant was to provide, as disclosed by the provisions of the policy. See Downs v. National Casualty Co., 146 Conn. 490, 494, 152 A.2d 316, 318. 'Where * * * the terms of an insurance policy are unambiguous, it is to be interpreted by the general rules governing the interpretation of any written contract, and enforced in accord with the real intent of the parties as so determined. If the terms of the policy are clear, their meaning cannot be forced or strained by an unwarranted construction to give them a meaning which the parties obviously never intended. Lyon v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 140 Conn. 304, 307, 99 A.2d 141; London & Lancashire Indemnity Co. v. Duryea, 143 Conn. 53, 58, 119 A.2d 325.' Ibid. A court will not torture words to import ambiguity where the ordinary meaning leaves no room for ambiguity, and words do not become ambiguous simply because lawyers or laymen contend for different meanings. A. M. Larson Co. v. Lawlor Ins. Agency, Inc., supra; Downs v. National Casualty Co., supra. The terms of the instant policy are not ambiguous. Given their natural and ordinary meaning, they express the intent of the parties. Plunkett v. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., 150 Conn. 203, 207, 187 A.2d 754.

The language in the exclusionary clause on which the plaintiffs rely simply limits the coverage by providing that 'an uninsured automobile' shall not include a motor vehicle or trailer operated on rails or crawler treads, or one located for residence use but not as a vehicle; or a farmtype tractor or equipment designed principally for use off public roads, except while actually upon public roads. The exclusion here is in the nature of a limitation on certain types of equipment and the use to which each is put. The exclusionary clause in this policy does not attempt to limit the meaning of the term 'automobile' and by no means can it be construed to include a 'motorcycle' under the policy coverage. The favorable construction rule, therefore, is inapplicable. Nor can it be said that the maxim 'expressio unius' has application here. It is generally an aid to statutory...

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    ...and words do not become ambiguous simply because lawyers or laymen contend for different meanings.' Marcolini v. Allstate Ins. Co., 160 Conn. 280, 284, 278 A.2d 796, 799. In the same context of uninsured motorist coverage we refused to interpret that term in the statute and regulations as m......
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