Plaintiff injured trying to stop truck theft.


Byline: Lee Dryden

The case will continue for a man who was injured while attempting to prevent his employer's tool truck from being stolen.

In Sylvester v. FCCI Insurance Company (MiLW No. 02-99447, 16 pages), plaintiff Kevin Sylvester sued after defendant FCCI Insurance Company insisted that its policy didn't cover his loss.

Judge David M. Lawson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled for the plaintiff in the case that focused on the uninsured motorist provisions of the policy issued to the plaintiff's employer by the defendant.

"Sylvester suffered his injuries in an accident while occupying his employer's tool truck, and therefore he was an 'insured person' under the policy. And the truck qualified as an 'uninsured motor vehicle,' based on the policy's precise definition of that term, when FCCI declined Sylvester's bodily injury claim," the Jan. 24 opinion stated.

The case

On Aug. 15, 2017, the plaintiff was on a lunch break at a job site in Detroit when two men attempted to steal a Ford F-450 tool truck with the keys in the ignition. The plaintiff and his co-workers attempted to remove the keys and stop the theft, according to the opinion.

"Sylvester was still hanging onto the side of the truck, trying to get the keys away, when one of the thieves succeeded in starting the engine and shifting the truck into drive. Sylvester was still clinging to the side of the truck, reaching into the cab, when the truck lurched forward and 'took off fast,'" the opinion stated. "As the truck sped up, Sylvester lost his grip on the door and 'slipped off' the running board. He remembered 'falling backwards' and 'getting hit by the truck.'

"The next thing he recalled was waking up in the hospital. When Sylvester fell to the ground, the rear wheels of the truck ran over his legs, causing severe injuries from which he still has not entirely recovered."

Sylvester submitted a claim for uninsured motorist benefits under the FCCI policy. FCCI responded with a letter denying the claim because "(1) the injuries did not result from an 'accident,' but instead from intentional acts by the persons who stole the truck; (2) Sylvester was not 'occupying' the truck when he fell off of it and was injured; and (3) the truck was not an 'uninsured motor vehicle.'"

Sylvester filed a complaint against FCCI in Wayne County Circuit Court. FCCI removed the case to federal court, invoking diversity jurisdiction. The parties filed cross motions for...

To continue reading