Sun Ins. Co. of New York v. Hamanne

Decision Date29 June 1973
Docket NumberNo. 6270,6270
Citation306 A.2d 786,113 N.H. 319
Parties, 62 A.L.R.3d 884 SUN INSURANCE COMPANY OF NEW YORK v. Blanche C. HAMANNE et al.
CourtNew Hampshire Supreme Court

Gormley & Calamari, Lancaster (John E. Gormley, Lancaster, orally), for plaintiff.

Hinkley & Donovan, Lancaster (Walter D. Hinkley, Lancaster, orally), for defendants Jennie Parent and Anna Sanschagrin.

Pierre J. Morin, Berlin, for defendants Blanche C. Hamanne and George Hamanne, filed no brief.

GRIFFITH, Justice.

This is a petition for declaratory judgment brought by the Sun Insurance Company of New York to determine coverage under a policy issued by it providing 'Owners', Landlords' and Tenants' Liability Insurance' to defendant Blanche C. Hamanne. All questions of law raised by the pleadings and an agreed statement of facts were reserved and transferred by King, J.

Blanche C. Hamanne for several years prior to February 12, 1969, owned and operated the Gosselin Paint Store in Berlin. The store sold paint, oils, wallpapers and related products. For a number of years the store had owned a gas-powered machine for removing wallpaper by means of steam. This machine was rented to customers and on February 12, 1969, was rented to Richard Parent, the son of defendant Jennie Parent, for use in removing wallpaper at Jennie Parent's house in Berlin. The machine was used on February 12, 1969, in the Parent house and a fire occurred resulting in damage to the house and personal property of Jennie Parent and damage to certain personal property of Anna Sanschagrin, a tenant of Jennie Parent. Suits have been brought against defendant Hamanne by Parent and Sanschagrin for the fire damage based upon a claim that the fire was caused by the defective condition of the wallpaper machine and that its defective condition was due to the negligence of the defendant Hamanne.

Sun Insurance agrees that its policy was in effect on February 12, 1969, but denies that it is required by the terms of the policy to defend the suits brought by Parent and Sanschagrin. The sole issue in the case is whether the policy by its terms provides liability coverage for the rental use of the wallpaper-removing machine.

The insurance policy in question is in a form called 'General Liability-Automobile Policy.' This is a standard form referred to as a jacket, including general definitions, conditions, and other provisions generally found in liability policies. 'The Jacket is then assembled with standard inserts called Coverage Parts to form a complete policy. These inserts provide the specific insurance coverage desired by the insured such as Comprehensive General Liability, Manufacturers' and Contractors' Liability and Owners', Landlords', and Tenants' Liability.' Henderson, Insurance Protection for Products Liability and Completed Operations-What Every Lawyer Should Know, 50 Neb.L.Rev. 415, 418 (1971) (hereinafter cited as Henderson).

The inserts in the jacket here provide Owners', Landlords' and Tenants' Liability insurance for premises of Blanche Hamanne including 'Stores-Paints-Rated as Hardware Store-Retail'. The insurance agreement insert provides coverage for damages the insured may become legally obligated to pay for bodily injury or property damage 'caused by an occurrence and arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the insured premises and all operations necessary or incidental thereto. . . .'

Sun Insurance denies that the insurance agreement requires them to defend the suits arising out of the use of the rental machine. They argue that since the insured did not purchase 'completed operations' or 'products hazard' coverage, they are not required to defend in an occurrence resulting from use of a rented machine away from the Hamanne store. It is clear that the insured here did not purchase either 'completed operations' or 'products hazard' coverage and that if coverage for the accident with the rented machine were sought within either of these provisions there would be no coverage.

It is well settled that the interpretation of an insurance policy is for this court and that the test in this jurisdiction is what a reasonable person in the position of the insured would understand the policy to mean. McCaffery v. St. Paul Fire Ins. Co., 108 N.H. 373, 236 A.2d 490 (1967); Aetna Ins. Co. v. State Motors, 109 N.H. 120, 244 A.2d 64 (1968). In any event the policy is to be read 'in the light of what a more than casual reading of the policy would reveal to an ordinary intelligent insured.' Aetna Ins....

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