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No Loading And Unloading Coverage Found for Owner of Premises for Accident Caused by Defect in Loading Dock

By on July 3, 2014 in Blog with 0 Comments

In Burlington Coat Factory v. Jay Dee Trucking, 2014 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1252 (App. Div. 2014), the Burlington Coat Factory (“Burlington”) sued Jay Dee Trucking (“Jay”) and its carrier National Specialty Insurance Co. (“National”), claiming that it was entitled to a defense and indemnification under a Trucker’s Policy issued to Jay for a lawsuit filed by one of its employees (“Singh”). In the underlying lawsuit, the employee claimed to have suffered personal injuries while cargo was being unloaded from a truck owned by Jay at Burlington’s loading dock. Burlington claimed that it was entitled to coverage under the “loading or unloading” provision in Jay’s policy with National.

The trial court found that no such coverage existed and granted summary judgment, dismissing Burlington’s suit. After considering the facts of the case, the Appellate Division affirmed, upholding the dismissal.

Burlington’s employee, Singh, claimed that Burlington had previously used a dock plate to bridge the gap between its loading dock and any delivery truck parked at the dock to unload cargo. However, three to four years before the accident, Burlington misplaced its dock plate, causing Singh to place “just any piece of board” he could find to bridge the gap between the dock and the back of the truck.

On the day of the accident, the Jay driver backed up to the loading dock in preparation of unloading cargo. One of Burlington’s employees placed a piece of plywood between the dock and the truck. The plywood was not secured or anchored in any way. Singh went inside to scan boxes. As he stepped onto the plywood, apparently the board slid and he fell between the truck and the loading dock.

Burlington claimed that National should have been required to defend and indemnify it for this underlying claim because “an accident must be covered by the auto insurance policy of a truck’s owner, where negligence is directly upon the act and preparation of the loading and unloading process of the truck in issue.”

However, prior case law held that the negligence of a premises owner in failing to maintain its loading dock, which resulted in the collapse of a docking plate upon one preparing to unload cargo, is not a negligent use of the truck that would trigger coverage under the truck’s policy. Here, while the accident occurred during the unloading process, it was the placement of the unstable board to bridge the gap between the truck and the loading dock that caused the accident.

The Appellate Division noted that when an accident occurs due to the owner’s failure to maintain its premises, there is no coverage under the loading/unloading provision of the trucker’s insurance policy because the accident arose not from the loading or unloading activities but, rather, from the negligent acts of the owner of the premises. Because Singh’s accident was not due to the negligence reasonably attributable to the use of the truck, Burlington was not entitled to coverage under National’s policy.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 25 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020 and 2021, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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