Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. ThomasAnnotate this Case
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Eastern Division certified two questions of first impression to the Alabama Supreme Court: whether a coverage exclusion clause in an automobile insurance policy applied to the use of the vehicle used for transporting people or delivering newspapers (as part of the insured's job) was enforceable. A secondary issue was whether that exclusion applied when an accident takes place after the delivery of the last paper, "but while the insured is driving back to his point of origin or some other location." Scott and Lori Touart Thomas were injured as the result of an automobile accident; Lori had been driving. The Thomases recovered a judgment in state court against defendant Kenneth Gooden, Jr., the driver of the other vehicle. The dispute involved whether the Thomases were entitled to recover from Nationwide under the provisions of a Nationwide automobile liability insurance policy naming Gooden as an insured. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the answer to the first certified question is "yes:" a clause in an automobile liability-insurance policy excluding coverage for the "use of any motor vehicle to carry persons or property for a fee" could be enforced as to an insured if the finder of fact concludes that the insured delivers newspapers for a fee and that the insured was using the covered vehicle for that purpose at the time of the accident. With regard to the second question, the Court concluded that the answer to the second certified question is "no:" a clause in an automobile liability-insurance policy excluding coverage for the "use of any motor vehicle to carry persons or property for a fee" cannot be enforced as to an insured after the delivery of the "property," i.e., newspapers in this case, is complete.