Pleasant v. Motors Ins. Co., No. 111

Docket NºNo. 111
Citation185 S.E.2d 164, 280 N.C. 100
Case DateDecember 15, 1971
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

Page 164

185 S.E.2d 164
280 N.C. 100
James M. PLEASANT, Administrator of the Estate of E. L. Pleasant
v.
MOTORS INSURANCE COMPANY.
No. 111.
Supreme Court of North Carolina.
Dec. 15, 1971.

Bryan, Jones, Johnson, Hunter & Greene, by K. Edward Greene, Dunn, for plaintiff appellant.

Teague, Johnson, Patterson, Dilthey & Clay, by Grady S. Patterson, Jr., and Paul L. Cranfill, Raleigh, for defendant appellee.

BRANCH, Justice.

Appellant contends that the intentional destruction of the automobile by the son of the named insured in the policy was not a 'direct and accidental loss' as required by the terms of the policy.

[280 N.C. 102] This Court defined the word 'accident' in connection with a suit seeking recovery under an accidental death policy which provided for 'direct and accidental loss' in the case of Clay v. State Insurance Co., 174 N.C. 642, 94 S.E. 289, as follows:

'. . . (I)n case of accident insurance, as expressed in the general terms of this policy, the word 'accident' should receive its ordinary and popular definition as an unusual and unexpected occurrence--one that takes place without the foresight or expectation of the person affected--and that in a given case the question is to be determined by reference to the facts as they may affect the holder of the policy, or rather the person insured. 'An event which, under the circumstances, is unusual and unexpected by the person to whom it happens.' Bomvier, 1883, as cited in Lovelace v. Travelers' Protective Association, 126 Mo. 104, 28 S.W. 877, and the cases, hold further that the intentional killing of the insured by a third person does not of itself, and without more, withdraw the claim from the protection of the policy . . ..'

In Fallins v. Durham Life Insurance Co., 247 N.C. 72, 100 S.E.2d 214, the court considered an accidental death policy, and stated:

'An injury is 'effected by accidental means' if in the line of proximate causation the act, event, or condition from the standpoint of the insured person is unintended, unexpected, unusual, or unknown.

Page 166

The unintended acts of the insured are deemed accidental. Injuries caused to the insured by the acts of another person, without the consent of the insured, are held due to accidental means unless the injurious acts are provoked and should have been expected by the insured. . . .'

These cases effectively point out that whatever is unexpected or unforeseen is determined from the standpoint of the named insured in the policy.

The use of the word 'accidental' to limit the losses in automobile insurance policies is subject to more than one reasonable meaning. It is well settled that when such words become ambiguous as applied to the various causes of loss set forth in the policy, the ambiguity will be construed against the insurer.

'The words used in the policy having been selected by the insurance company, any ambiguity or uncertainty as to their [280 N.C. 103] meaning must be resolved in favor of the policyholder, or the beneficiary, and against the company.' Wachovia Bank & Trust Co. v. Westchester Fire Insurance Co., 276 N.C. 348, 172 S.E.2d 518.

We therefore conclude that an automobile insurance policy providing for payment for accidental loss or damage to the automobile includes loss caused by the intentional act of another when in the line of causation the act, from the standpoint of the policyholder or named insured, is unintended, unexpected, unusual, or unknown. Of course the insurance company may, by use of specific words, exclude losses covered by intentional acts of another.

Here the policy contained no specific provision excluding recovery for loss caused by the intentional act of another. Nor does the record show that the named insured had knowledge of, or complicity of any kind in, the intentional burning of the insured automobile.

Defendant argues that the tortious destruction of the automobile by...

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10 practice notes
  • Register v. White, No. 579PA03.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • August 13, 2004
    ...specific facts of the case create more than one reasonable interpretation of the contractual provisions. See Pleasant v. Motors Ins. Co., 280 N.C. 100, 102, 185 S.E.2d 164, 166 (1971); Miller v. Green, 183 N.C. 652, 654, 112 S.E. 417, 418 (1922). In interpreting the language of an insurance......
  • National Mortg. Corp. v. American Title Ins. Co., No. 7815SC587
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • June 19, 1979
    ...policy must be resolved in favor of the insured. Grant v. Insurance Co., 295 N.C. 39, 243 S.E.2d 894 (1978); Pleasant v. Insurance Co., 280 N.C. 100, 185 S.E.2d 164 (1971); Insurance Co. v. Insurance Co., 269 N.C. 358, 152 S.E.2d 513 (1967). In applying a similar rule of construction, the c......
  • Moore v. Crumpton, No. 8115SC369
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • January 19, 1982
    ...598; Hawes v. Haynes, 219 N.C. 535, 14 S.E.2d 503; Bowen v. Mewborn, 218 N.C. 423, 11 S.E.2d 372.... See also Pleasant v. Insurance Co., 280 N.C. 100, 185 S.E.2d 164 In Patterson v. Weatherspoon, 17 N.C.App. 236, 193 S.E.2d 585 (1972), plaintiff was injured when struck by a golf club swung ......
  • Register v. White, No. 579PA03
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • August 13, 2004
    ...specific facts of the case create more than one reasonable interpretation of thecontractual provisions. See Pleasant v. Motors Ins. Co., 280 N.C. 100, 102, 185 S.E.2d 164, 166 (1971); Miller v. Green, 183 N.C. 652, 654, 112 S.E. 417, 418 (1922). In interpreting the language of an insurance ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Register v. White, No. 579PA03.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • August 13, 2004
    ...specific facts of the case create more than one reasonable interpretation of the contractual provisions. See Pleasant v. Motors Ins. Co., 280 N.C. 100, 102, 185 S.E.2d 164, 166 (1971); Miller v. Green, 183 N.C. 652, 654, 112 S.E. 417, 418 (1922). In interpreting the language of an insurance......
  • National Mortg. Corp. v. American Title Ins. Co., No. 7815SC587
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • June 19, 1979
    ...policy must be resolved in favor of the insured. Grant v. Insurance Co., 295 N.C. 39, 243 S.E.2d 894 (1978); Pleasant v. Insurance Co., 280 N.C. 100, 185 S.E.2d 164 (1971); Insurance Co. v. Insurance Co., 269 N.C. 358, 152 S.E.2d 513 (1967). In applying a similar rule of construction, the c......
  • Moore v. Crumpton, No. 8115SC369
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • January 19, 1982
    ...598; Hawes v. Haynes, 219 N.C. 535, 14 S.E.2d 503; Bowen v. Mewborn, 218 N.C. 423, 11 S.E.2d 372.... See also Pleasant v. Insurance Co., 280 N.C. 100, 185 S.E.2d 164 In Patterson v. Weatherspoon, 17 N.C.App. 236, 193 S.E.2d 585 (1972), plaintiff was injured when struck by a golf club swung ......
  • Register v. White, No. 579PA03
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • August 13, 2004
    ...specific facts of the case create more than one reasonable interpretation of thecontractual provisions. See Pleasant v. Motors Ins. Co., 280 N.C. 100, 102, 185 S.E.2d 164, 166 (1971); Miller v. Green, 183 N.C. 652, 654, 112 S.E. 417, 418 (1922). In interpreting the language of an insurance ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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