When is a box in the road not a box?

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A box in the road could be considered, for insurance purposes, as an uninsured vehicle, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today in a narrow, but precedential, ruling that stemmed from a 2008 accident on Route 51 in Beaver County.

Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance denied policyholder Larry G. Squires coverage under his uninsured motorist policy after he endured a car-on-box accident on a remote section of the road, the 3rd Circuit judges wrote in an opinion dated today.

U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti agreed with Allstate, finding that even if the box was assumed to fall from an unidentified vehicle, its tumble and subsequent collision with another car couldn't be considered to be "arising out of" the use of a car.

The judge erred by finding in Allstate's favor early in the proceedings, the 3rd Circuit ruled. If Mr. Squires can show that the accident wouldn't have occurred but for the box, the case should proceed, it found.

The 3rd Circuit decision made clear that it was not ruling that a box in the road is always an uninsured vehicle -- just that in this case, it might be, and a judge should hear more evidence before making that call. The case now goes back to U.S. District Court.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542


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