Does the Motor Vehicle Exclusion in your Homeowners Policy apply in every case?

by Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation

Woodland Hills personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg has a critical expertise in analyzing both Auto and Homeowners policies.  One of the more confusing areas is whether a Homeowners or Renters liability policy can somehow be applied to a motor vehicle accident circumstance.  In fact, in early in his career, Barry P. Goldberg litigated many unusual circumstances wherein Homeowners policies were implicated in serious motor vehicle accident cases, including arguments in the Court of Appeal.

One of the clearer examples outlining this “collision” of insurance policies is the circumstance where a driver substantially (and negligently) modifies his own vehicle in his own garage. I recall cases where drivers installed lawn chairs in place of actual roadworthy seats and a passenger was seriously injured. More recently, in an unpublished decision, the Court of Appeal examined a circumstance where a landlord negligently and illegally rented a back property where the door opened up to a driveway.  A toddler exited the door and was killed by a backing vehicle driven by the landlord.  The plaintiff contended that both the Auto and Homeowners policy applied.

Can a Homeowners Policy Apply? State Farm Mutual Ins. Co. v. Partridge.

Whether a motor vehicle exclusion in a Homeowners policy bars coverage for an accident involving a vehicle is a difficult. Analysis must start our Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Partridge (1973) 10 Cal.3d 94 (Partridge). In that case, Partridge owned a gun that he had modified so that it had a “hair trigger action.” He brought the gun with him when he was driving with two friends to hunt jackrabbits from his vehicle. While driving off road, Partridge’s vehicle hit a bump and the gun discharged—the bullet hit his friend and the resulting injury left her paralyzed. (Id. at 98.) Does this ever happen to you?

In that case, Partridge had both an Automobile policy and a Homeowners policy with the same insurer which conceded auto coverage.  However, it filed a declaratory relief action for a determination whether coverage was precluded on the Homeowners policy because it had a “use of vehicle” exclusion.  The defendants “argued that since two independent negligent acts, one covered by the homeowners policy and one by the automobile policy, jointly caused the accident, coverage should be afforded by both policies.” (Id. at p. 97.)

The Court held “the crucial question presented is whether a liability insurance policy provides coverage for an accident caused jointly by an insured risk (the negligent filing of the trigger mechanism) and by an excluded risk (the negligent driving). Defendants correctly contend that when two such risks constitute concurrent proximate causes of an accident, the insurer is liable so long as one of the causes is covered by the policy.” (Id. at 102.) The Court noted State Farm conceded the negligent filing of the trigger mechanism was a risk covered by the liability policy and that had the injury occurred while the insured was walking down the street or running in the woods, the resulting injury would have been covered under the policy. The Court accordingly reasoned coverage under the Homeowners policy should not be denied because negligent driving also contributed to the injury. (Id. at 103.)

Are the Two Causes “Concurrent” and “Dependent”?

Here is where it gets tricky.  Most lawyers can make a plausible argument that multiple causes proximately combined to cause the motor vehicle accident or injury.  However, it is much more difficult to analyze whether the cause covered under the Homeowners policy could have “independently” cause the accident or injury.  For example, what if an adult leaves children in a parked vehicle and they are harmed by the excessive heat? What if a modification to a vehicle causes an explosion?  What if a vehicle falls off a negligently designed lift?  The possibilities are endless.

If you are aware of a serious injury which may contain negligent factors arising from activities “unrelated” to the actual motor vehicle, it is critical that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney that is familiar with the “ins and outs” of the technical insurance laws and different policies.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation

Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.