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The complaint is premised on the electric company’s liability


The records of the case relate that a Nassau landscape gardener who owned a tractor trailer ring was electrocuted when loading boom on the tractor trailer, which he was driving, stuck high tension wires owned by an electric company and located on the property of a certain resident. The administrator of the estate of the landscape gardener sued the electric company and the landowner for personal injuries and wrongful death.

The complaint is premised on the Suffolk electric company’s liability upon faulty maintenance and safety control of the high tension wires. The parties have stipulated that the wires were maintained by the electric company and that the conduct of the tractor trailer truck was not for the electric company’s use or benefit. The electric company was not a lessee or borrower of the tractor trailer. Significantly, it was agreed that the power for the tractor trailer came from that unit itself, and it was not connected to the electric company’s equipment for any power source.

Both contenders rely on the policy language, which provides that the insured includes the named insured, any partner or executive officer of the named insured, any other person while using an Owned automobile or a Hired automobile with the permission of the Named insured, and any other person or organization but only with respect to his or its liability because of acts or omissions of an insured.

The electric company believes it is an ‘organization’ with potential liability to the landscape gardner’s estate ‘because of his acts or omissions in handling the truck.

In this case, the court found that the pertinent claimed faulty acts by the electric company, negligent maintenance and control of the high tension wires, are remote and unrelated to the named insured’s loading operation, except in temporal occurrence alone. The electric company, the court ruled, is in no way part of the loading process of the tractor trailer. That both claimed acts of negligence, by the electric company and by the insurance company, may have coincided in time happenstance does not establish the critical functional nexus to use and loading of the truck so as to bring the electric company’s possible contributive causation within those activities covered by the insurance policy.

The electric company contends that any organization is insured with respect to its liability occasioned because of acts or omissions of an insured. The court believes that the words “because of” imply a relationship connecting the culpable acts of persons using the vehicle to liability of another, who then becomes an “insured.” The phrase appears to include persons or organizations held in by way of vicarious liability for derelictions of the landscape gardener’s employer, its employees, or a consensual user of the vehicle.

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