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ISSAQUAH LAW GROUP

Issaquah Law Group: Experienced Counsel; Client Focus

PHILOSOPHY: Formed in 2014, Issaquah Law Group is a law firm with one focus: providing businesses and insurers with high quality legal representation with the responsiveness of a smaller firm. ILG was founded on the principle that strong client relationships are the key to successful legal representation and strong relationships are built upon clear and consistent communication. 

LITIGATION: We work closely with our clients to fully and accurately understand their goals, work collaboratively to formulate specific legal strategies, and execute the agreed plan of action utilizing methods most likely to result in the efficient and effective resolution of the matter. ILG attorneys have a broad base of litigation experience to draw on in all Federal and State courts from on-the-ground investigations to Supreme Court appeals in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death, product liability, commercial general liability, labor & employment, construction litigation, and catastrophic losses due to fire and explosion.

BUSINESS LAW: Rarely is the path from point A to point B a straight line, so our role in a business law practice is to find alternatives, devise workable strategies, and keep your business ideas, goals and objectives moving toward realization. ILG’s business attorneys help clients achieve their goals with respect to business formation, intellectual property, labor and employment, CAN-SPAM, copyright and trademark

COMMUNITY: In addition, the Lawyers at Issaquah Law Group remain active in the legal and civic community. A core commitment of our Issaquah Attorneys is community service. Our attorneys' civic involvement includes the King County Civil Rights Commission; the City of Issaquah Planning Policy Commission; the Northwest Screenwriters Guild, service as a pro tem judge. We live and work in the Pacific Northwest, and we aim to make it a better place.

In addition, through The Amateur Law Professor Blog and LinkedIn postings, we share pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as the pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Courts of Appeal so that our clients can be as update to date on cutting legal issues as we are.

Washington Supreme Court Adopts "Mere Situs" Test for Injuries While Using Motor Vehicle.

Kroeber v. GEICO Ins. Co.

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and this is only proved true time and  time again in insurance coverage issues.

The Western District of Washington certified this issue to the Washington Supreme Court, knowing full well that this situation likely skirted potential coverage issues. In a fairly suave move, the Washington Supreme Court punted the issue right back, with a little more direction.

In this case, a man was driving at a bar, presumably in a parking lot, and opened fire. Of course the car was uninsured, leaving coverage to fall to a UIM policy, which covered damages "arising out of" use of the vehicle.

Oddly enough, this situation has sort of been dealt with before, in the case of Detweiler v. J.C. Penney Cas. Ins. Co., 110 Wn.2d 99, 751 P.2d 282 (1988). I'll let Justice Johnson recite the facts:

In Detweiler, we held that injuries arose out of vehicle use when a drinking buddy drove off in the claimant's pickup truck and the claimant . . . jumped onto the bed of the truck, was later thrown off the truck, pulled out his .357 Magnum pistol, fired six shots at the tire of the truck from roughly 10 feet away, and was injured in the neck, face, and eyes by ricocheting bullet fragments. Detweiler, 110 Wn.2d at 101, 109. Finding such a causal connection between vehicle use and a gunshot injury is not unique to Washington. 

A few important pieces of information were relayed back to the Western District:

  • Arising out of is broader than caused by;
  • If the vehicle was only the "mere situs" of the incident, then the incident is not arising from the vehicle's use;
  • that insurance statutes are to be liberally construed for the public benefit.

So what does that mean for the case? Well, not much until the Western District rules based on this guidance. Given the liberal construction of Detweiler, there is a good argument that coverage should apply in a "drive-by" type situation, as the vehicle is essentially used as a mechanism of escape as the shooting is happening. However, the lack of clarity on the "mere situs" test provides some wiggle room. 

You may be asking yourself, "Why no exclusion for an intentional act?" Unfortunately, in this case, the driver admitted shooting, but claimed he was not trying to hit any particular person.

The grey area will come, I believe, when a person goes to their car to get a weapon to fire indiscriminately in a crowd. A strong argument could be made for the "mere situs" test in those situations.

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