Heimer v. Companion Life Insurance Co., No. 16-2274 (6th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Heimer, one year over the legal drinking age, drank alcohol with friends and then rode motorbikes in a field. Heimer and his friend collided. Heimer suffered extensive injuries, incurring more than $197,333.50 in medical bills. Heimer’s blood alcohol level shortly after the crash was 0.152, nearly twice the limit to legally use an off-road vehicle in Michigan. Heimer was insured. As required by his plan, he submitted a medical claim form shortly after the accident. The plan administrator denied coverage based on an exclusion for “[s]ervices, supplies, care or treatment of any injury or [s]ickness which occurred as a result of a Covered Person’s illegal use of alcohol.” After exhausting administrative appeals, Heimer filed suit. The district court held that the plan exclusion did not encompass Heimer’s injuries, reasoning that there is a difference between the illegal use of alcohol—such as drinking while under 21 or drinking in defiance of a court order—and illegal post-consumption conduct, such as the illegal use of a motor vehicle. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Reading “illegal use of alcohol” to disclaim coverage only for the illegal consumption of alcohol, and not for illegal post-consumption conduct is consistent with the ordinary meaning of “use” and best gives effect to the contract as a whole.