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Chappaqua Central School District v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

March 22, 2017

Chappaqua Central School District, et al., appellants,
v.
Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company, respondent, et al., defendant. Index No. 9717/12

          Congdon, Flaherty, O'Callaghan, Reid, Donlon, Travis & Fishlinger, Uniondale, NY (Richard J. Nicolello of counsel), for appellants.

          Miranda Sambursky Slone Sklarin Verveniotis LLP, Mineola, NY (Steven Verveniotis and Michael Cataldo of counsel), for respondent.

          WILLIAM F. MASTRO, J.P. RUTH C. BALKIN JEFFREY A. COHEN VALERIE BRATHWAITE NELSON, JJ.

          DECISION & ORDER

         In an action for a judgment declaring that the defendant Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company is obligated to defend and indemnify the plaintiffs herein in an underlying personal injury action entitled Brunsting v Chappaqua Cent. Sch. Dist., commenced in the Supreme Court, Westchester County, under Index No. 53598/11, the plaintiffs appeal from an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (Brown, J.), entered October 10, 2014, which granted the motion of the defendant Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company for summary judgment, in effect, declaring that it is not obligated to defend and indemnify the plaintiffs in the underlying action, and denied their cross motion for summary judgment declaring that the defendant Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company is so obligated.

         ORDERED that the order is affirmed, with costs, and the matter is remitted to the Supreme Court, Nassau County, for the entry of a judgment declaring that the defendant Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company is not obligated to defend or indemnify the plaintiffs in the underlying action.

         The defendant Patricia Brunsting was employed by the Chappaqua Children's Workshop, Inc. (hereinafter CCW), which operated a children's after-school program in the cafeteria of the Robert E. Bell Middle School building (hereinafter the school), which was owned by the plaintiff Chappaqua Central School District (hereinafter CCSD). CCSD leased the cafeteria to CCW for its after-school program pursuant to a written agreement. In January 2011, Brunsting allegedly was injured when she tripped and fell while descending an exterior staircase that led from the school down to its parking lot. CCW had a liability insurance policy in effect with the defendant Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company (hereinafter the PIIC policy). CCSD had a liability insurance policy in effect with the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal (hereinafter the NYSIR policy). Brunsting commenced an action against CCSD to recover damages for personal injuries (hereinafter the underlying action). NYSIR settled the underlying action for $200, 000.

         PIIC was timely notified of the underlying action, but disclaimed coverage to CCSD as an additional insured on the grounds that Brunsting was not injured on the leased premises and because CCW was not responsible for maintaining or repairing the staircase. New York Schools Insurance Foundation and CCSD commenced this action seeking a declaration that PIIC is obligated to provide defense and indemnification in the underlying action. PIIC moved for summary judgment, in effect, declaring that it is not so obligated, and the plaintiffs cross-moved for summary judgment declaring that PIIC is obligated to defend and indemnify them in the underlying action as an "additional insured" under the PIIC policy. The PIIC policy had a provision providing coverage for "Managers, Landlords, or Lessors of Premises" for "liability arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of that part of the premises leased or rented to you" (hereinafter the additional insured provision). The plaintiffs contended that the additional insured provision covered the underlying action because the term "arising out of the use" was a broad, comprehensive term, and because the staircase was "necessarily used for access" to the leased premises. PIIC countered that the accident was not covered by the additional insured provision because it did not occur within the leased premises, and because the staircase was not "necessarily incidental" to the use of the leased premises. The Supreme Court granted PIIC's motion and denied the plaintiffs' cross motion. We affirm.

         An insurer's duty to defend is "exceedingly broad" (Colon v Aetna Life & Cas. Ins. Co., 66 N.Y.2d 6, 8; see Regal Constr. Corp. v National Union Free Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, 15 N.Y.3d 34, 37; Mack-Cali Realty Corp. v NGM Ins. Co., 119 A.D.3d 905, 906). An additional insured is entitled to the same coverage as if it were a named insured (see BP A.C. Corp. v One Beacon Ins. Group, 8 N.Y.3d 708, 714-715; Pecker Iron Works of N.Y. v Traveler's Ins. Co., 99 N.Y.2d 391, 393). "If any of the claims against an insured arguably arise from covered events, the insurer is required to defend the entire action" (Frank v Continental Cas. Co., 123 A.D.3d 878, 881; see Fieldston Prop. Owners Assn., Inc. v Hermitage Ins. Co., Inc., 16 N.Y.3d 257, 264). The phrase "arising out of" requires "only that there be some causal relationship between the injury and the risk for which coverage is provided" (Mack-Cali Realty Corp. v NGM Ins. Co., 119 A.D.3d at 906-907 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Worth Constr. Co., Inc. v Admiral Ins. Co., 10 N.Y.3d 411, 415). Yet "[a]n insurer does not wish to be liable for losses arising from risks associated with... premises for which the insurer has not evaluated the risk and received a premium" (Maroney v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 5 N.Y.3d 467, 472). Moreover, "unambiguous provisions of an insurance contract must be given their plain and ordinary meaning" (White v Continental Cas. Co., 9 N.Y.3d 264, 267; see ABM Mgmt. Corp. v Harleysville Worcester Ins. Co., 112 A.D.3d 763, 764). The interpretation of policy language is a question of law for the court (see White v Continental Cas. Co., 9 N.Y.3d at 267; ABM Mgmt. Corp. v Harleysville Worcester Ins. Co., 112 A.D.3d at 764).

         PIIC established, prima facie, that it was entitled to summary judgment declaring that it is not obligated to defend and indemnify the plaintiffs in the underlying action. The additional insured provision unambiguously provided that CCSD was an additional insured, as a "Lessor, " for liability "arising out of" the "ownership, maintenance or use" of the "premises leased" to CCW, namely, the cafeteria. It is undisputed that CCW leased only the cafeteria from CCSD, and that CCW had no duty to maintain or repair the staircase where the accident occurred. There was no causal relationship between the injury and the risk for which coverage is provided (see Regal Constr. Corp. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, 15 N.Y.3d at 38; Christ the King Regional High School v Zurich Ins. Co. of N. Am., 91 A.D.3d 806, 809). Accordingly, Brunsting's injury was not a bargained-for risk (see Maroney v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 5 N.Y.3d at 473).

         In opposition, the plaintiffs failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether there was any causal relationship between the accident and the risk for which coverage was provided (see Christ the King Regional High School v Zurich Ins. Co. of N. Am., 91 A.D.3d at 808).

         Accordingly, the Supreme Court properly granted PIIC's motion and denied the plaintiffs' cross motion.

         Since this is a declaratory judgment action, the matter must be remitted to the Supreme Court, Nassau County, for the entry of a judgment declaring that PIIC is not obligated to defend and indemnify the plaintiffs ...


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