Scranton v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co.

Decision Date25 May 1954
Citation141 Conn. 313,105 A.2d 780
PartiesSCRANTON v. HARTFORD FIRE INS. CO. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Leon Podrove, Manchester, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Wallace W. Brown, Hartford, for the appellee (defendant).

Before INGLIS, C. J., and BALDWIN, O'SULLIVAN, WYNNE and DALY, JJ.

DALY, Associate Justice.

The plaintiff sued the defendant to recover damages under the extended coverage provision of a fire insurance policy. The defendant, in a special defense, alleged facts from which it claimed that the policy did not cover the loss. The demurrer of the plaintiff to the special defense was overruled and he failed to plead further. He has appealed from a judgment rendered for the defendant.

The plaintiff averred in his complaint that the defendant, in consideration of a premium, issued him an insurance policy, the coverage of which included direct loss arising from damage caused by vehicles to a building owned by him. He claimed that the building was damaged by a vehicle driven by Charles St. Pierre and that, although he notified the defendant of his loss, it has not paid him. By its special defense the defendant alleged that the policy specifically excluded from coverage loss occasioned by any vehicle owned or operated by the plaintiff, the insured, or by any tenant of the insured property, and that St. Pierre was, at the time of the alleged accident, not an independent person but the employee and agent of the plaintiff, acting, in the regular course of his employment, under the plaintiff's instructions and in his behalf. The plaintiff demurred to the special defense on the ground that it was insufficient as a matter of law because the defendant did not allege in it that the policy excluded loss occasioned by a vehicle operated by an employee or agent of the insured. The demurrer was overruled.

Under the terms of the policy, its coverage included direct loss or damage, by vehicle, to the plaintiff's building. In an exclusionary provision, it was stated that the defendant would not be liable for loss 'by any vehicle owned or operated by the Insured or by any tenant of the described premises.' The defendant concedes that neither the word 'employee' nor the word 'agent' was contained in the exclusionary provision but contends that the vehicle operated physically by St. Pierre was operated by the plaintiff, the insured, within the meaning of the provision, because St. Pierre was his employee and agent at the time the vehicle damaged the building, and that, consequently, the defendant is not liable. The plaintiff claims that the language in question is not ambiguous but that, if it is, the construction to be applied to it is the one most favorable to him. The question at issue is to be resolved by the construction to be given the words 'by any vehicle owned or operated by the Insured.' Does this language mean that the company would not be liable because the vehicle which caused the damage was operated by the employee or agent of the plaintiff?

When the words in an insurance policy are, without violence, susceptible of two interpretations, that which will sustain the claim of the insured and cover the loss must be adopted. In the light of this settled rule of construction, we must adopt, between two reasonably tenable constructions, that which is most favorable to the plaintiff, the insured. 'In the presence of a reasonable doubt we must...

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17 cases
  • Griffith v. Security Ins. Co. of Hartford
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • January 14, 1975
    ...company's attorneys, officers, or agents prepare the policy and it is their language that must be interpreted. Scranton v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 141 Conn. 313, 316, 105 A.2d 780; King v. Travelers Ins. Co., supra; Rinaldi v. Prudential Ins. Co., 118 Conn. 419, 424, 172 A. 777; Westmorelan......
  • Griswold v. Union Labor Life Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 23, 1982
    ...attorneys, officers, or agents prepare the policy and it is their language that must be interpreted. Scranton v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 141 Conn. 313, 316, 105 A.2d 780 (1954); King v. Travelers Ins. Co. (123 Conn. 1, 4, 192 A. 311 (1937)); Rinaldi v. Prudential Ins. Co., 118 Conn. 419, 42......
  • Ratchford v. Mutual Ben. Health and Acc. Ass'n
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Common Pleas
    • September 25, 1961
    ...Duryea, 143 Conn. 53, 58, 119 A.2d 325; Raffel v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 141 Conn. 389, 392, 106 A.2d 716; Scranton v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 141 Conn. 313, 315, 105 A.2d 780; King v. Travelers Ins. Co., 123 Conn. 1, 4, 192 A. 311. 'When the language of an insurance contract is fairly op......
  • Burritt Mut. Sav. Bank of New Britain v. Transamerica Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 11, 1980
    ...was its draftsman. Roby v. Connecticut General Life Ins. Co., 166 Conn. 395, 402, 349 A.2d 838 (1974); Scranton v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 141 Conn. 313, 315, 105 A.2d 780 (1954); Restatement (Second), Contracts § 232 (Tentative Draft, 1973). Insurance companies have had ample opportunity t......
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