Conn. SC rules in favor of insurer in carbon monoxide case

Jessica M. Karmasek Feb. 17, 2012, 12:45pm


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an insurance company in a case over whether a homeowner's policy would cover carbon monoxide-related injuries.

Two medical students, Armenui Dzhgalian and Aida Melikyan, traveled to Connecticut in 2007 to participate in a month-long, unpaid internship at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn.

During their internships, they lived with defendant Maria V. Nantes, a hospital employee, at her home in Ansonia, Conn.

The two students suffered serious injuries after Nantes left her car running overnight in an attached garage, filling the house with carbon monoxide.

At issue is whether the students' injuries are covered by Nantes' homeowners insurance policy, issued by plaintiff New London County Mutual Insurance Co.

The insurer sued Nantes, the two medical students and Nantes' car insurer, Government Employees Insurance Co., seeking a declaration that Nantes' homeowners policy does not cover the students' injuries.

New London, which argues that its policy excludes coverage for injuries "arising out of the use of" a motor vehicle, filed a motion for summary judgment.

The trial court granted its motion and rendered judgment for the plaintiff. The defendants appealed.

The state's high court, in an opinion that will be officially released Tuesday, affirmed the lower court's ruling.

Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote the Court's opinion.

The justice said it boils down to Nantes' act of leaving her car running in the garage.

"The defendants claim, rather, that leaving a car in one's garage does not constitute the use of a motor vehicle. We disagree," he wrote.

"When Nantes drove into the garage, exited the car and left it there upon entering the house, she was parking the car. Parking is plainly an employment of a car for some purpose of the user.

"Moreover, the act of parking does not fail to be an employment of a car for some purpose of the user merely because the user performs the act negligently, as Nantes did by exiting the car without turning it off."

The defendants also argued that because a "concurrent" cause of the students' injuries was Nantes' act of closing the garage door -- and because that act is covered under the policy -- the injuries should, too, be covered.

The Court deemed the covered event "irrelevant," citing past case law.

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