A California appeals court said Monday that Travelers Property and Casualty Co. of America was liable for $2.4 million awarded to a food truck vendor who was burned by oil that splashed on her from a deep fryer during a collision.
The court found Travelers, which had issued a commercial general liability policy to food truck vendor Royal Catering Co., was liable as opposed to American States Insurance Co., which had issued an automobile policy. The two insurers had been fighting over which was responsible for the $2.4 million arbitration award.
According to the appeals court, Esmeragdo Gomez and his wife Irais Gomez had leased a Royal food truck that was designed to transport two people. Esmeragdo was driving one day with another person in the passenger seat, while Irais was standing in the back of the truck, when another vehicle hit them in an intersection. Irais was splashed with hot oil during the incident.
An arbitrator found Royal to be 40 percent responsible for Irais’ injuries because the company allegedly installed the wrong type of deep fryer basket, the court said.
The appeals court reasoned that for the first two hours of the day, the Gomezes cooked food in their food truck while parked in the Royal parking lot. During the next eight hours, the Gomezes made 12 to 13 stops to cook, or at least heat, and sell food. During those stops, the food truck was not “transporting” anything, but was immobile.
It pointed out that the food truck had only two seats and two seatbelts, and the truck was not equipped to transport persons other than a driver and a cook.
“If Travelers had intended to exclude food trucks from coverage as ‘autos’ — a significant consideration light of the fact that Royal maintained a fleet of food trucks and was in the business of leasing such vehicles — it would have identified them along with the other special use vehicles it identified as ‘autos,’” the court said.
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