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Boyle v. Bristol West Insurance Co

2020 COA 102. No. 19CA0660. Insurance—Use of a Motor Vehicle—Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage—Bodily Injuries.

July 2, 2020

Boyle was a passenger in a Toyota when he was involved in a road rage incident with a Jeep. Both vehicles were driven aggressively during the incident. When the Toyota came to a red light, the Jeep stopped behind it. Boyle exited the Toyota and approached the Jeep. As the Jeep made a U-turn, it struck Boyle and dragged him, causing severe injuries. Boyle settled for the respective policy limits with his own insurer and the Jeep’s insurer. He then sought underinsured motorist benefits from the Toyota’s insurer, Bristol West Insurance Co. (Bristol West), which denied his claim.

Boyle filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in district court. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court denied Boyle’s motion and granted Bristol West’s motion, ruling that because Boyle was not “using” the Toyota when he was injured, he was not entitled to benefits from Bristol West.

On appeal, Boyle contended that the district court erred by granting Bristol West’s summary judgment motion, arguing that he “used” the Toyota when he was injured because he was targeted for the assault as a result of his connection with the vehicle. In Colorado, automobile insurers must include coverage for injuries “arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle” caused by uninsured motorists, unless the named insured rejects such coverage in writing. This coverage is available when (1) the vehicle’s use at the time the injuries were suffered was conceivable to the parties at the time of contracting and not foreign to the vehicle’s inherent purpose; and (2) the claimant shows a causal connection—that but for the use of the motor vehicle, the injuries would not have occurred. Here, Boyle’s use of the Toyota—to approach the Jeep occupant—was not inherent to using a vehicle for transportation or contemplated by the policy. And by leaving the Toyota to confront the Jeep driver, Boyle engaged in an independent nonuse of the vehicle that interrupted the causal chain. Accordingly, Boyle’s injuries did not arise out of the use of the vehicle, and the district court did not err in granting Bristol West’s summary judgment motion.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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