Murder at Taco Bell drive-through not covered by auto insurance

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 18, 2011, 1:49pm


JUNEAU, Alaska (Legal Newsline) - The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday affirmed a lower court's ruling that a man's car insurance policy did not provide liability coverage for his death, which resulted from a collision in a Taco Bell drive-through.

Following the collision, the driver of a Chevrolet Suburban, Jack Morrell, stabbed and killed Eric Kalenka, who was driving a rented Subaru station wagon.

Morrell, who was later convicted of second-degree murder, was uninsured and Kalenka's policy provided coverage for liabilities arising out of the "ownership, maintenance, or use" of an uninsured motor vehicle.

Kalenka's automobile insurer, Infinity Property and Casualty Insurance Corp., filed an action in superior court, seeking a declaration that Kalenka's policy did not provide coverage for his death.

Uwe Kalenka, as personal representative of the estate of Eric Kalenka, filed a counterclaim seeking money he alleged was owed to the Kalenka estate under the terms of Eric Kalenka's policy.

The superior court concluded that there was no general liability coverage under the policy. Uwe Kalenka appealed the denial of liability coverage.

Justice Dana Fabe, who authored the state high court's 20-page opinion, said the Court agreed with the lower court's determination.

The Court said, in this case, the vehicle driven by Morrell was not an "active accessory" to Kalenka's injuries.

"The collision between Morrell's and Kalenka's vehicles was only the subject of their fight; the vehicles played no part in the fight itself. Accordingly, there was insufficient causation for Kalenka's death to have arisen out of the 'use' of the vehicle Morrell was driving," Fabe wrote.

The Court also concluded that there was an intervening "act of independent significance."

"Here, Morrell did exit his vehicle prior to assaulting Kalenka and only attacked Kalenka after Kalenka began to call the police on his cell phone," Fabe wrote.

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