GRETNA, LA., March 22 – The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a trial court determination that the insurer of a Louisiana-based marine crane builder owed no coverage for a 2009 accident caused by poor welding. The Court ruled that the insurance policy did not apply because it covered only vessel-related incidents and not incidents on land.
State National Insurance Co. insured Elevating Boats LLC, for losses payable for the liability of the policyholder, as the owner of a vessel, for any incident or loss arising out of ownership of the vessel. In 2009 worker Larry Naquin Sr. had sued Elevating Boats for personal injuries on the theory negligent welding of the crane in question. During a test Naquin was running on the crane, the crane separated from its base and fell over, killing one, and causing Naquin two broken feet and a hernia. The accident occurred on land and nowhere near a vessel, according to the opinion:
“Naquin’s incident in no way arose out of EBI’s conduct as ‘owner of the vessel …Furthermore, the land-based crane did not break on or even in close proximity to a vessel. Thus, EBI’s attempts to craft a causal connection to a vessel are discharged, plainly and simply, by the underlying facts and Naquin’s holding.”
In May 2012 a Louisiana federal jury found that EBI was negligent in welding the crane to its platform and that it was therefore liable for Naquin’s injuries. During those proceedings the trial judge granted State National’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the policy did not cover incidents on land.
Naquin urged an interpretation of a “blanket reading” of State National’s policy such that it would provide coverage for “any casualty or occurrence,” but the Appeals Court found the argument “strained,” and contrary to common law which required a vessel- related loss in such circumstances.
The 5th Circuit Court concluded, “Naquin’s incident in no way arose out of EBI’s conduct as ‘owner of the vessel.’”