This is a garnishment proceeding. Plaintiff, judgment creditor of defendant Nelson, sought to garnish the proceeds of an automobile liability insurance policy issued to Nelson by Leatherby Insurance Company (garnishee). Garnishee answered that it had no proceeds which were owing under the policy. After filing allegations and interrogatories which garnishee answered, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion was granted by the trial court, but because of the limited extent of the relief granted, plaintiff appeals. Garnishee cross-appeals, contending that a question of fact exists as to its coverage of Nelson and that no summary judgment should therefore have been granted.
The issue in this proceeding is the extent of the liability insurance coverage under the policy which garnishee issued to Nelson. In her deposition, which is part of the record, plaintiff discloses that her judgment against Nelson arose out of an encounter with Nelson in a bar. She and a female friend were in the bar when Nelson asked plaintiff to dance and plaintiff refused. Nelson cursed plaintiff, and either Nelson or his companion poured a drink down the front of plaintiff's clothing. Plaintiff and her friend went to plaintiff's vehicle in the bar parking lot and drove off. They were followed by Nelson and his companion in Nelson's car. While plaintiff was traveling at 30 to 35 miles per hour, Nelson used his car to bump the rear of plaintiff's vehicle. Plaintiff speeded up to 50 to 55 miles per hour, whereupon Nelson did the same, again bumping plaintiff's vehicle, but this time also pushing it over a sidewalk and through a fence.
Plaintiff brought an action against Nelson based on negligence. Garnishee refused
We shall first take up garnishee's cross-appeal, because if the granting of summary judgment was improper due to the existence of a question of fact concerning whether there was any coverage at all, resolution of plaintiff's contention concerning the coverage of punitive damages is premature and may never be required.
Garnishee's answer to plaintiff's allegations in the garnishment proceeding affirmatively alleges that the acts giving rise to Nelson's liability to plaintiff were his intentional rammings of plaintiff's automobile and that the policy of insurance issued to Nelson did not insure against "intentional acts." Garnishee's position, if interpreted literally, is, of course, not well taken. What garnishee really contends, however, as is shown by its memorandum of law filed with the trial court, is that the policy does not cover intentionally inflicted injuries or damages. Most, if not all, negligently inflicted injuries or damages result from intentional acts of some kind, but coverage still exists under normal policy provisions if there was no intention to cause, by the commission of the acts, the resulting injuries or damages. Although the policy provisions involved are somewhat different from those under consideration in City of Burns v. Northwestern Mutual, 248 Or. 364, 369, 434 P.2d 465 (1967), the following language from that case is appropriate here:
The policy language in the present case obligates garnishee "to pay upon behalf of the insured all sums which the insured
The policy issued by garnishee was one provided for by the Financial Responsibility Law, ORS 486.011 et seq. It is plaintiff's contention that the legislature intended that such a policy, unlike the ordinary policy involved in Isenhart, should cover intentionally inflicted injuries and damages because the thrust of the statutory enactment is to increase the protection of injured persons. ORS 486.541 of the Law provides:
If the Financial Responsibility Law intended coverage for intentionally inflicted injuries and damages, garnishee's policy would automatically provide such coverage, regardless of its terms. We must therefore look at the Law for an indication of legislative intent on this issue. ORS 486.011(7) provides:
Plaintiff points to no particular part of the Law as indicating that a policy issued pursuant to it provides coverage for intentionally inflicted injuries and damages. The thrust of the Law apparently is to make certain that an insured has coverage of normal scope which cannot be voided subsequent to an accident by the insured's own statements or lack of cooperation. It is, therefore, our conclusion that the Financial Responsibility Law was not intended to require coverage for intentionally inflicted personal injuries or property damages.
Plaintiff cites Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. v. Wolbarst, 95 N.H. 40, 57 A.2d 151 (1948), in support of her position that policies issued under a financial responsibility law cover intentionally inflicted injuries and damages because the concern of the law is compensation for injured parties. Although the Wolbarst case appears to so hold, we do not choose to follow it, because its reasoning does not seem to be sound and also because there is another basis upon which the New Hampshire court could have based its decision. In Wolbarst there was a finding of fact that although the insured had intended to bump the rear of the vehicle in which the parties who were injured were riding, he had not intended thereby to inflict injuries upon them.
Plaintiff also cites Davis v. State Farm Mut. Ins., 264 Or. 547, 507 P.2d 9 (1973). In Davis it was held that there was no public policy which prevented an insured plaintiff from collecting from his own insurer under uninsured motorist coverage when he had been injured by a third party who had no coverage because he had intentionally injured the insured plaintiff. We held that there is no public policy against such coverage because the wrongdoer is not being protected thereby from the consequences of his intentional infliction of the injuries. The insured was merely insuring himself against (among other things) the possibility of being intentionally injured by an uninsured motorist.
It is garnishee's position that from Nelson's intentional rammings of plaintiff's car it is possible for the trier of the facts to
Because we cannot tell at this time whether there is any coverage at all, the issue of whether punitive damages are covered by the terms of the policy as written or by the requirements of the Financial Responsibility Law is not ripe for decision, and we therefore do not consider the merits of the issue raised by plaintiff's appeal.
The judgment of the trial court is reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings in conformance with this opinion.