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154026 - Atlantic Casualty Ins Co v Gary Gustafson

Atlantic Casualty Insurance Company,
 
David S. Anderson
 
Plaintiff-Appellant,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Ontonagon – Burgess, J.)
 
Gary Gustafson
 
William T. Nordeen
 
Defendant-Appellee,
 
and
 
 
Andrew Aho,
 
 
 
Defendant.
 
 
 
 

Summary

Andrew Aho contracted with Gary Gustafson to perform landscaping work on his property. In the course of watching Gustafson work, Aho was injured. He filed a personal injury lawsuit against Gustafson, who tendered the defense of the lawsuit to his commercial general liability insurer, plaintiff Atlantic Casualty Insurance Company. Plaintiff then filed this declaratory judgment action against Gustafson, and both parties moved for summary disposition. Plaintiff
argued that a policy exclusion entitled "Exclusion of Injury to Employees, Contractors and Employees of Contractors" applied in this case. The exclusion barred coverage for "bodily injury" to any "contractor," which was defined in the policy to include "any property owner." Therefore, plaintiff argued that the exclusion applied because Aho, as the property owner, was a "contractor" within the meaning of the policy exclusion. The circuit court agreed with plaintiff and granted its motion for summary disposition. In a published opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for entry of an order granting summary disposition to Gustafson, holding that the phrase "any property owner" is ambiguous and the more plausible interpretation is that it refers to "those who are being compensated, or who otherwise have a commercial interest, for being on the job site." The Supreme Court has directed oral argument on plaintiff’s application for leave to appeal to address: (1) whether the phrase "any property owner" in the insurance policy is ambiguous; (2) whether a property owner must have a commercial interest in the project before the exclusion applies to that property owner, and what constitutes such a "commercial interest"; and (3) what weight, if any, should be given to the title of the exclusion.