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Fitzpatrick v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc.

78 N.Y.2d 61 (1991)

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Fitzpatrick v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc.

New York Court of Appeals

78 N.Y.2d 61 (1991)

Facts

John Fitzpatrick died while operating an all-terrain vehicle while performing landscaping services on a property owned by Cherrywood Property Owners Association (CPOA). Cherrywood Landscaping, Inc. (CLI) had been retained by CPOA for the services Fitzpatrick was performing when he died. Frank Moramarco was a shareholder and an executive officer of CLI and had hired Fitzpatrick as an independent contractor. When Fitzpatrick died, CLI was insured by National Casualty Co. (National) for property damage and bodily injury resulting from the operation of its landscaping business. Moramarco was not a named insured, but the policy provided that CLI’s executive officers, directors, and stockholders were “insured persons” while acting within the scope of their duties. Fitzpatrick’s wife, Linda Fitzpatrick (plaintiff), filed a wrongful-death suit, naming Moramarco and CPOA as defendants, but not CLI. Moramarco sought defense against the lawsuit from National. However, National refused to defend Moramarco despite information from Moramarco and one of National’s agents that Moramarco had hired Mr. Fitzpatrick in his official capacity to work for CLI. Moramarco filed a third-party action against National for his legal fees and any judgment that would be entered in Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s suit. In Moramarco’s action, he provided proof that Mr. Fitzpatrick’s death was covered. However, the court ultimately dismissed Moramarco’s action holding that Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s complaint was determinative of whether the policy was activated. The appellate division affirmed the dismissal of Moramarco’s action. Moramarco appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Titone, J.)

Dissent (Alexander, J.)

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