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A wheeled electronics recycling bin is not a vehicle, said a federal appeals court Tuesday, in upholding a lower court ruling in Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.’s favor, in a dispute involving a co-op apartment building’s gas line rupture.
The rupture in the 1070 Park Avenue Corp. residential co-op building in Manhattan was allegedly caused by a recycling bin with wheels that was used by residents to discard electronics, according to the ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in 1070 Park Avenue Corp. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.
1070 Park said the gas line had to be turned off as result of the rupture, according to the ruling. The gas system was required by law to pass an integrity test before it could be turned back on.
All parties agreed that Fireman’s Fund “all risks” policy did not cover costs associated with the enforcement of any ordinance that requires the gas system to be tested for integrity, said the ruling.
The exclusion does not apply, however, if the testing was required because of physical damage caused by “aircraft or vehicles,” among other factors.
“1070 Park argues that the policy exclusion does not apply because the wheeled e-cycle bin is a ‘vehicle,’ a term undefined in the policy itself,” the ruling said.
The co-op filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York, which ruled in Fireman’s Fund’s favor. The decision was upheld by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.
“We agree with the district court that the word ‘vehicle’ in the context of the insurance policy here clearly does not include the e-cycle bin,” said the ruling.
“Not everything with wheels is a ‘vehicle’ as that word is commonly understood. Thus, the average insured entering a contract would not reasonably expect that an exemption that refers to ‘aircraft or vehicles’ covers a recycling bin,” said the ruling.
The policy “clearly contemplates objects that transport people or goods, and especially those that can reasonably be expected to cause massive loss,” the ruling said, in affirming the lower court’s decision.
The co-op’s attorney, David Karel of Wilkofsky, Friedman, Karel & Cummins in New York, said in a statement, “In argument the judges clearly indicated that the e-cycling bin was a Vehicle, or at worst it was ambiguous. Affirmance of the lower court opinion was wrong and a cop out.”
Fireman’s Fund’s attorney had no comment.
(Reuters) — Allianz S.E.'s U.S. property/casualty insurer unit, Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., is aiming to make a profit in 2014 for the first time in years as efforts to turn the business around begin to pay off.