What Constitutes “Maintenance” Of An Automobile?

Many insurance policies contain provisions providing coverage (or excluding coverage ) for bodily injury arising out of the “maintenance” of an automobile. What constitutes “maintenance” of an automobile in the insurance context? Today the Court of Appeals addressed that question in Guishard v General Sec. Ins. Co., 2007 NY Slip Op 0658.

The plaintiff injured his eye while riveting metal to a van for the purpose of converting it into a “Mr. Softee” ice cream truck. The plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that the defendant insurance company was obligated under the terms of a commercial general liability policy to defend and indemnify them in a pending personal injury action. The policy at issue excluded coverage for bodily injury “arising out of the ownership, maintenance, use or entrustment to others of any . . . auto” .

The Court of Appeals found that work performed by the injured plaintiff did not constitute “maintenance” of an auto. It stated that “maintenance,” as that term is used in an insurance policy, means performance of work on “an intrinsic part of the mechanism of the car and its overall function” (citations omitted). The Court then stated that riveting metal to a van in furtherance of its conversion to an ice cream truck aids in transforming the auto’s function, an activity which is distinct from “maintenance.” Thus, the insurance company was obligated to defend and indemnify plaintiffs.

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