Newell-Blais Post No. 443, Veterans of Foreign Wars of U.S., Inc. v. Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., NEWELL-BLAIS

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtBefore HENNESSEY; HENNESSEY
Citation487 N.E.2d 1371,396 Mass. 633
PartiesPOST # 443, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF the UNITED STATES, INC. v. The SHELBY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY.
Decision Date28 January 1986
Docket NumberNEWELL-BLAIS

Page 1371

487 N.E.2d 1371
396 Mass. 633
NEWELL-BLAIS POST # 443, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF the
UNITED STATES, INC.
v.
The SHELBY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts,
Norfolk.
Argued Nov. 5, 1985.
Decided Jan. 28, 1986.

Page 1372

[396 Mass. 634] Richard R. Eurich, Boston, for defendant.

James J. Walsh, Boston, for plaintiff.

Before [396 Mass. 633] HENNESSEY, C.J., and WILKINS, ABRAMS, and O'CONNOR, JJ.

[396 Mass. 634] HENNESSEY, Chief Justice.

The plaintiff (Newell-Blais) sought a declaratory judgment in the Superior Court to establish the obligations of The Shelby Mutual Insurance Company (company) under the terms of an insurance policy issued by the company to Newell-Blais. After trial, at which the parties submitted a statement of agreed facts, the trial judge entered a judgment ordering the company to defend and indemnify Newell-Blais. The company appealed, and we transferred the case here on our own motion. We affirm that part of the Superior Court's judgment that requires the company to defend Newell-Blais.

We summarize the facts. Newell-Blais is a nonprofit veterans' organization incorporated under G.L.c. 180 (1984 ed.) for "fraternal, patriotic, historical, and educational" purposes. Newell-Blais is the owner of premises at 50 Jefferson Street, North Attleborough. Alcoholic beverages are served at these premises, in accordance with a license issued to Newell-Blais under G.L.c. 138, § 12 (1984 ed.).

The company issued a comprehensive general liability insurance policy under which the company was obliged to defend and indemnify Newell-Blais in any suit for bodily injury or property damage covered by the policy. This policy was in full force and effect at all material times.

A wrongful death action was filed against Newell-Blais on January 23, 1980. The complaint alleged that Newell-Blais negligently served alcoholic beverages to one of its patrons on January 25, 1977, and that, as a result of this negligence, the patron so carelessly operated his motor vehicle as to cause the death of the plaintiffs' decedents, two minor children.

Newell-Blais requested the company to defend it in this wrongful death action. The company denied liability, stating [396 Mass. 635] that the policy did not afford coverage for the allegations set forth in the complaint against Newell-Blais, due to the operation of exclusion (h). 1 Newell-Blais subsequently commenced this declaratory judgment action, and the judgment ensued that the company must defend and indemnify Newell-Blais.

The company argues that (1) the claims against Newell-Blais are excluded from coverage by paragraph (h) of the policy; 2 (2) the judge improperly excluded evidence of the company's underwriting practices; and (3) the judge erred in ordering the company both to defend and indemnify Newell-Blais, rather than holding the issue of indemnification in abeyance until the completion of trial in the underlying wrongful death action.

1. Exclusion (h).

The company argues that Newell-Blais is an "organization engaged in the

Page 1373

business of manufacturing, distributing, selling or serving alcoholic beverages" within the meaning of exclusion (h)(1). The word "business" is not defined in the policy. This term thus must be given its ordinary and usual meaning, and construed in the manner that the insured would reasonably understand to be the scope of his coverage. Slater v. United States Fidelity & Guar. Co., 379 Mass. 801, 803, 400 N.E.2d 1256 (1980). Save-Mor Supermarkets, Inc. v. Skelly Detective Serv., Inc., 359 Mass. 221, 226, 268 N.E.2d 666 (1971). "Business" is defined as "a usually commercial or mercantile activity customarily engaged in as [396 Mass. 636] a means of livelihood." Webster's New Int'l Dictionary 302 (3d ed. 1961). "Business," as commonly understood, is thus an activity engaged in for the purpose of gain or profit. As a nonprofit organization...

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55 practice notes
  • Worcester Ins. Co. v. Fells Acres Day School, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 22 Agosto 1990
    ...owned and engaged in for profit. See Newell-Blais Post # 443, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Inc. v. Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 396 Mass. 633, 636, 487 N.E.2d 1371 (1986); Ratner v. Canadian Universal Ins. Co., 359 Mass. 375, 379, 269 N.E.2d 227 (1971). "[T]he manifest design of homeowner......
  • In re Acushnet River & New Bedford Harbor, Civ. A. No. 83-3882-Y.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • 27 Octubre 1989
    ...the policy coverage." Id. at 318 n. 4, 458 N.E.2d 338; see Newell-Blais Post # 443, Veterans of Foreign Wars v. Shelby Mutual Ins. Co., 396 Mass. 633, 638, 487 N.E.2d 1371 (1986) ("The obligation to indemnify does not ineluctably follow from the duty to defend."). A final decision on this i......
  • Polaroid Corp. v. Travelers Indem. Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 7 Abril 1993
    ...of a duty to defend. See Newell-Blais Post No. 443, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Inc. v. Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 396 Mass. 633, 638, 487 N.E.2d 1371 (1986); Magoun v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 346 Mass. 677, 681-682, 195 N.E.2d 514 20 If an underlying case went to judgment, the......
  • Narragansett Elec. Co. v. Am. Home Assurance Co., No. 11 Civ. 08299(LGS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 14 Febrero 2014
    ...In contrast, “[t]he issue of indemnification must await the completion of trial.” Newell–Blais Post # 443 v. Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 396 Mass. 633, 638, 487 N.E.2d 1371 (1986). The insurer has a duty to defend when the Complaint could be reasonably construed to state a covered claim. Liberty ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
55 cases
  • Worcester Ins. Co. v. Fells Acres Day School, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 22 Agosto 1990
    ...owned and engaged in for profit. See Newell-Blais Post # 443, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Inc. v. Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 396 Mass. 633, 636, 487 N.E.2d 1371 (1986); Ratner v. Canadian Universal Ins. Co., 359 Mass. 375, 379, 269 N.E.2d 227 (1971). "[T]he manifest design of home......
  • In re Acushnet River & New Bedford Harbor, Civ. A. No. 83-3882-Y.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • 27 Octubre 1989
    ...policy coverage." Id. at 318 n. 4, 458 N.E.2d 338; see Newell-Blais Post # 443, Veterans of Foreign Wars v. Shelby Mutual Ins. Co., 396 Mass. 633, 638, 487 N.E.2d 1371 (1986) ("The obligation to indemnify does not ineluctably follow from the duty to defend."). A final decisio......
  • Polaroid Corp. v. Travelers Indem. Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 7 Abril 1993
    ...of a duty to defend. See Newell-Blais Post No. 443, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Inc. v. Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 396 Mass. 633, 638, 487 N.E.2d 1371 (1986); Magoun v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 346 Mass. 677, 681-682, 195 N.E.2d 514 20 If an underlying case went to judgment, the......
  • Narragansett Elec. Co. v. Am. Home Assurance Co., No. 11 Civ. 08299(LGS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 14 Febrero 2014
    ...In contrast, “[t]he issue of indemnification must await the completion of trial.” Newell–Blais Post # 443 v. Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 396 Mass. 633, 638, 487 N.E.2d 1371 (1986). The insurer has a duty to defend when the Complaint could be reasonably construed to state a covered claim. Liberty ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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