INSURANCE-RELATED COURT CASES
Digested from case reports published online
Cyclist or pedestrian?
Todd McLaughlin was riding his bicycle on a Seattle street when the door of a parked vehicle opened into him. McLaughlin fell, suffered injuries, and sought insurance coverage for various losses, including his medical expenses.
McLaughlin’s personal auto policy with Travelers Commercial Insurance Company, which was purchased in California, covered those expenses if McLaughlin was a “pedestrian” at the time of the accident. McLaughlin argued that a bicyclist was a pedestrian, relying on the definition of “pedestrian” found in the Washington laws governing casualty insurance. “Pedestrian” was not defined in the policy.
The trial court held that a bicyclist was not a pedestrian, reasoning that the plain meaning of “pedestrian” excluded bicyclists. The court of appeals affirmed, relying largely on its view that the Washington statute defined “pedestrian” for purposes of casualty insurance and excluded bicyclists. Both McLaughlin and Travelers filed motions for summary judgment. The court granted Travelers’ motion and denied McLaughlin’s motion. McLaughlin appealed.
On appeal, McLaughlin argued that the Washington legislature defined “pedestrian” for purposes of casualty insurance broadly in a statute. The Washington Supreme Court found that the definition included bicyclists and applied to the insurance contract at issue.
According to the Supreme Court, “Even if we were to hold otherwise, at the very least, the undefined term ‘pedestrian’ in the insurance contract at issue must be considered ambiguous in light of the various definitions of ‘pedestrian’ discussed in this opinion. Being ambiguous, we must construe the insurance term favorably to the insured. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals and remand for further proceedings.”
McLaughlin v. Travelers Commercial Insurance Company—Washington Supreme Court—December 10, 2020—No. 97652-0.