State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham, 46240

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtPATTERSON
Citation249 So.2d 375
PartiesSTATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., Defendant-Appellant, v. Mrs. Janelle C. LATHAM, Plaintiff-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 46240,46240
Decision Date07 June 1971

Page 375

249 So.2d 375
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., Defendant-Appellant,
v.
Mrs. Janelle C. LATHAM, Plaintiff-Appellee.
No. 46240.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
June 7, 1971.

Lipscomb, Barksdale, Steen & Caraway, Jimmy B. Reynolds, Jr., Jackson, for defendant-appellant.

Roy Noble Lee, Tom S. Lee, Forest, for plaintiff-appellee.

PATTERSON, Justice:

The State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company appeals from a judgment of the Circuit Court of Scott County in favor of Mrs. Janelle C. Latham in the sum of $5,000. The facts, which are not in controversy, are as follows:

On February 19, 1965, State Farm issued an insurance policy to Kelly N. Latham and his wife, Janelle C. Latham. This policy contained death benefits, pertinent here, in these terms:

Page 376

A. INSURING AGREEMENT IV-AUTOMOBILE DEATH INDEMNITY * * *

Coverage S

Division 1-Death Indemnity. To pay the principal sum stated as applicable in the exceptions of the declarations in event of the death of each insured which shall result directly and independently of all other causes from bodily injury caused by accident and sustained by the insured while occupying or through being struck by an automobile, provided the death shall occur within 90 days from the date of such accident.

On March 21, 1968, while the policy was in effect, Kelly N. Latham was killed in an automobile accident enroute to his work. At the time he was driving a 1968 Chevrolet pickup truck owned by Forest Constructors, Inc., his employer. This vehicle, which was furnished to plaintiff's decedent for his use, was registered with the Motor Vehicle Comptroller's office as a commercial vehicle. Though against the policy of Forest Constructors, Inc., for the pickup truck to be used except in work-related activities, it was nevertheless, with the knowledge of the company, often used for personal purposes by Kelly N. Latham.

From these facts the trial court, sitting without a jury, concluded that the provisions of Insuring Agreement IV, Death Benefits, were applicable and entered its judgment in favor of the insured. State Farm contends on appeal that the trial court erred in finding that the pickup truck was not a commercial vehicle and excluded under the terms of the policy. The exclusion relied upon is:

B. EXCLUSIONS-INSURING AGREEMENT IV

Insuring Agreement IV does not apply:

(a) to bodily injury sustained in the course of his occupation by any person while engaged (1) in duties incident to the operation, loading or unloading of, as an assistant on, a public or livery conveyance, commercial automobile, ambulance, fire truck, police car or other emergency vehicle, or (2) in duties incident to the repair or servicing of automobiles * * *

The term, 'commercial automobile' in the above provision is defined by Section 6(b) of the declarations of the policy as follows:

The term 'commercial' or 'commercial-farm' is defined as used principally in the business occupation of the named insured as stated in the exceptions, including occasional use for personal, pleasure, family and other business purposes.

The issue before the Court is whether the vehicle which the appellee's husband occupied at the time of his death was a 'commercial automobile' as defined in the policy. There is no question but that the vehicle was being used for a commercial purpose at the time of the accident. The use of the vehicle is not dispositive, however, of the issue since the policy expressly defines 'commercial automobile' with reference to the coverage in question. The policy definition, being that agreed upon by the contracting parties, must be accepted and applied. The decisive issue is the application of the definition to the vehicle in question. It must be determined whether the vehicle is the counterpart of the definition set forth in the policy. If it comes within the definition, coverage is excluded; if it does not, the policy affords coverage; or if the definition is susceptible of more than one meaning so that the vehicle may or may not come within the classification, then it is ambiguous and coverage is afforded through the legal theory that the policy should be construed most strictly against the insurer and in favor of the insured. Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Evins, 199 So.2d 238 (Miss.1967); American Hdw. Mutual Ins. Co. v. Union Gas Co., 238 Miss. 289, 118 So.2d 334 (1960);

Page 377

Lumbermen's Mutual Casualty Co. v. Broadus, 237 Miss. 387, 115 So.2d 130, 74 A.L.R.2d 1248 (1959); and Southern Home Ins. Co. v. Wall, 156 Miss. 865, 127 So. 298 (1930).

We repeat the definition in the policy:

6(b) The term 'commercial' * * * is defined as use principally in the business occupation of the named insured as stated in the exceptions, including occasional use for personal, pleasure, family and other business purposes.

We note the policy does not...

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11 practice notes
  • Siciliano v. Hudson, Cause No. 2:92CV061-D-A (N.D. Miss. 4/__/1996), Cause No. 2:92CV061-D-A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Mississippi
    • April 1, 1996
    ...that event, the ambiguous word or phrase is construed against the drafter, usually the insurer. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham, 249 So. 2d 375, 378 (Miss. When the meaning of terms in an insurance policy is clear and unambiguous, interpretation of the policy is a question of law f......
  • J & W FOODS CORP. v. State Farm Mut. Ins., 96-CA-00136-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 14, 1998
    ...liberally in favor of the insured, especially when interpreting exceptions and limitations. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham, 249 So.2d 375, 378 (Miss.1971); American Hardware Mut. Ins. Co. v. Union Gas Co., 238 Miss. 289, 293, 118 So.2d 334, 335 (Miss. 1960). Mississippi law also r......
  • AMERICAN BANKERS'INS. CO. OF FL. v. Wells, 1999-CA-00523-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • December 6, 2001
    ...Agreements, we necessarily interpret them to benefit Wells and Oliver and against Fidelity. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham, 249 So.2d 375, 378 (Miss.1971); Griffin v. Maryland Cas. Co., 213 Miss. 624, 57 So.2d 486 (1952); Claxton v. Fidelity & Guar. Fire Corp., 179 Miss. 556, 175 ......
  • Miss. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co. v. Powell, 2020-IA-00432-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • April 7, 2022
    ...law also requires we construe insurance policies broadly in favor of the insured. Id. (citing State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham , 249 So. 2d 375, 378 (Miss. 1971) ; Am. Hardware Mut. Ins. Co. v. Union Gas Co. , 238 Miss. 289, 293, 118 So. 2d 334, 335 (Miss. 1960) ).¶33. Looking to th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • Siciliano v. Hudson, Cause No. 2:92CV061-D-A (N.D. Miss. 4/__/1996), Cause No. 2:92CV061-D-A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Mississippi
    • April 1, 1996
    ...that event, the ambiguous word or phrase is construed against the drafter, usually the insurer. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham, 249 So. 2d 375, 378 (Miss. When the meaning of terms in an insurance policy is clear and unambiguous, interpretation of the policy is a question of law f......
  • J & W FOODS CORP. v. State Farm Mut. Ins., 96-CA-00136-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 14, 1998
    ...liberally in favor of the insured, especially when interpreting exceptions and limitations. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham, 249 So.2d 375, 378 (Miss.1971); American Hardware Mut. Ins. Co. v. Union Gas Co., 238 Miss. 289, 293, 118 So.2d 334, 335 (Miss. 1960). Mississippi law also r......
  • AMERICAN BANKERS'INS. CO. OF FL. v. Wells, 1999-CA-00523-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • December 6, 2001
    ...Agreements, we necessarily interpret them to benefit Wells and Oliver and against Fidelity. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham, 249 So.2d 375, 378 (Miss.1971); Griffin v. Maryland Cas. Co., 213 Miss. 624, 57 So.2d 486 (1952); Claxton v. Fidelity & Guar. Fire Corp., 179 Miss. 556, 175 ......
  • Miss. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co. v. Powell, 2020-IA-00432-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • April 7, 2022
    ...law also requires we construe insurance policies broadly in favor of the insured. Id. (citing State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Latham , 249 So. 2d 375, 378 (Miss. 1971) ; Am. Hardware Mut. Ins. Co. v. Union Gas Co. , 238 Miss. 289, 293, 118 So. 2d 334, 335 (Miss. 1960) ).¶33. Looking to th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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