OPINION OF THE COURT
GARTH, Circuit Judge.
This appeal arises out of a suit on an insurance policy. The district court denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granted the defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment, holding that the plaintiff was excluded from the policy's coverage. We reverse.
On July 4, 1975, Preferred Rentals, Inc. ("Preferred"), a St. Croix, V.I. car rental agency insured by the defendant Continental Insurance Co. ("Continental"), rented a car to Marion Edwards ("rentee"). Two days later, on July 6, Edwards met Clement Richardson and the plaintiff Norman Buntin in a Christiansted bar. The three then decided to drive to Frederiksted. Edwards asked Buntin to drive his rented car, since Edwards was unfamiliar with the Virgin Islands practice of driving on the left-hand side of the road. While en route Buntin collided with an oncoming car. Edwards was killed and Richardson was seriously injured.
In April, 1976, actions were filed against Buntin by Richardson and by Edwards's estate. Buntin notified Continental, the insurer of the rental car, and tendered to it the defense of the two actions. Continental disclaimed coverage and declined to defend Buntin, on the ground that Buntin was not an insured under the policy.
Both cases against Buntin were consolidated and, after proceeding to trial, judgment was entered in favor of Richardson and Edwards's estate, and against Buntin, in the amounts of $26,500 (plus interest and attorneys' fees) and $165,000 (plus interest and attorneys' fees) respectively. After the entry of these judgments, several settlement attempts were transmitted to Continental. However, Continental continued to disclaim coverage and to deny any liability on its part. Buntin eventually brought this action against Continental, alleging a breach of Continental's obligations under the insurance policy.
The district court held that, by its terms, an endorsement to the policy excluded Buntin from coverage. Since there was no material factual dispute, the district court on September 27, 1977 denied Buntin's motion for summary judgment and granted Continental's cross-motion for summary judgment. This appeal followed.
This dispute essentially involves two provisions of Preferred's insurance policy with Continental. The policy at issue is a standard automobile liability insurance policy. Paragraph III of the policy, entitled "Definition of Insured", provides in relevant part:
This clause is known as the "omnibus clause" and is standard in automobile liability insurance policies. The "named insured" is Preferred, the rental agency.
Endorsement No. 2, attached as a rider to the policy, and made a part thereof, provides in paragraph 1(a):
Paragraph 7 of the Endorsement then provides that "`[d]riverless car' means an automobile of the private passenger type while rented without the named insured or a chauffeur of the named insured in attendance."
Also relevant is Paragraph 8 of the Rental Agreement, which provides that the "Lessor provides liability insurance for Customer [Edwards] and any Authorized Operator described herein in accordance with the
The issue, then, is whether Buntin is included within the coverage of the omnibus clause, or whether he is excluded by Endorsement 2.
Clearly, Buntin was not given express permission to operate the rental vehicle by Preferred, the named insured. Nonetheless, apart from Endorsement No. 2, Buntin would be an additional insured under the omnibus clause. Courts have generally held
The case of Persellin v. State Automobile Insurance Association, supra, is instructive. In that case, the owner of an automobile (the named insured) turned the car over to Shapiro for his use. One evening Shapiro had his friend Persellin and two female friends in the car as his guests. At one point Shapiro asked Persellin to drive. An accident occurred and one of the women sued Persellin, who in turn sued the insurer. Faced with an almost identical omnibus clause, the court noted that the clause included within its definition of an "insured person" two classes of persons: (1) persons using the automobile, and (2) persons legally responsible for the automobile's use, provided the actual use of the automobile is with the permission of the named insured. The court held that Persellin was an additional insured, reasoning that:
32 N.W.2d at 646.
Similarly, in Maryland Casualty Co. v. Marshbank, supra, the named insured's son, in the presence of the son's friend Charles, requested his father's permission to use the automobile for the purpose of taking some friends to a movie. The father, the named insured, gave his permission. The son took the car, and, while travelling to the theatre, turned the wheel over to Charles. While Charles was driving the car was involved in a collision with two other cars, and two friends, also guests in the car, were seriously injured. The insurer sued seeking a declaratory judgment as to its liability under a policy containing an omnibus clause. This court held that Charles was an additional insured. Judge Maris reasoned:
226 F.2d at 639. Also, see Great American Insurance Co. v. Anderson, supra, which applied the Marshbank approach to a rented car situation. In Anderson, a rental car company (the named insured) rented a car to the lessee, who then permitted his brother to drive while he continued to ride in the car as a passenger. After an accident occurred the lessee sued his brother (the driver) and the named insured's insurer. The court found that the rental company had given the lessee's brother oral permission to drive, a fact which distinguishes that case from the instant case. However, alternatively the court stated that the brother would be insured under the omnibus clause even without such oral permission:
395 F.2d at 916.
In the case sub judice, Preferred, the named insured, gave its permission to Edwards to use the rented vehicle. The accident occurred while Edwards was using it, i. e., while the car was being used for Edwards's purposes and benefit, and while Edwards was travelling in, and in ultimate control of, the car. Since the vehicle was being utilized within the scope of the permitted use, that is by Edwards, the person actually operating it would be included within the omnibus clause and would be an additional insured under the policy.
Anything in the Rental Agreement which may appear to the contrary would not change this result, inasmuch as the terms of the insurance policy control Continental's liability, not the lease provisions. See Carolina Casualty Insurance Co. v. Transport Indemnity Co., 488 F.2d 790 (10th Cir. 1973).
Having determined that Buntin would be an additional insured apart from Endorsement No. 2, we must now consider the effect of that endorsement. It is, of
Continental contends — and the district court held — that the phrase "subject otherwise to the provisions of the Definition of Insured Agreement", contained in the endorsement, means only that the endorsement applies subject to the terms of the main policy in all respects other than the application of the policy to driverless cars. With respect to driverless cars, the endorsement unambiguously provides that the insurance policy applies only to specific individuals, viz, the named insured, the rentee, and the rentee's employer or employees when the car is being used for the business purposes of the rentee. Continental argues that failure to give the endorsement such a restrictive effect renders the endorsement mere surplusage.
Buntin, on the other hand, contends that the phrase "subject otherwise to the provisions of the Definition of Insured Agreement of the policy" should be interpreted to include the omnibus clause (with its permissive user doctrine explicated in Part III A of this opinion, supra) in the definition of insured contained in the endorsement. Buntin argues that if the endorsement was intended to exclude the omnibus clause, the "subject otherwise to" sentence would be unnecessary, since that result (i. e. exclusion of the omnibus clause) would obtain from the language of the endorsement (apart from the "subject otherwise to" language) which seems to limit the definition of insured "only" to the persons listed. Buntin further argues that the restrictive interpretation put forward by the district court and Continental would violate the Virgin Islands' mandatory liability insurance law,
We do not find it necessary to accept either interpretation. Each interpretation has a certain logic to recommend it, and the endorsement is fairly susceptible of both. It is entirely possible that reasonable persons could differ — as they have — as to the meaning of the endorsement. Moreover, different and more explicit language could have easily been used to express clearly and unequivocally Continental's intent. This being so, we must conclude that the language of the endorsement, and in particular the "subject otherwise to" language, is ambiguous, see Consolidated Coal Co. v. Liberty
It is settled that any ambiguity or contradiction in an insurance policy must be construed against the insurer, and in a manner which is more favorable to coverage. See, e. g., Stroehmann v. Mutual Life Insurance Co. of New York, 300 U.S. 435, 57 S.Ct. 607, 81 L.Ed. 732 (1937); Mutual Life Insurance Co. of New York v. Hurni Packing Co., 263 U.S. 167, 175, 44 S.Ct. 90, 68 L.Ed. 235 (1923); Transport Indemnity Co. v. Home Indemnity Co., 535 F.2d 232, 234 (3d Cir. 1976); Daburlos v. Commercial Insurance Co. of Newark, New Jersey, 521 F.2d 18, 26 (3d Cir. 1975). If there is more than one reasonable reading of a policy provision, as is the case here, that provision must be construed against the insurance company which has drafted it. See Continental Casualty Co. v. Beelar, 132 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 405 F.2d 377 (1968); Continental Assurance Co. v. Conroy, 209 F.2d 539 (3d Cir. 1954). Since the language of the endorsement in this case is ambiguous, and the effect of endorsement unclear,
The result which we have reached is consistent not only with established legal principles, but also with salutory policy considerations. Without question, the rental agency, and in turn its insurer, should have foreseen that the rented vehicle might well have come into the hands of a person other than the rentee. They should not, therefore, be able to evade, by means of an ambiguous endorsement, the financial responsibility that is concomitant to the business of leasing cars for profit. Indeed, the New York Court of Appeals has declared, in an almost identical context, and for similar reasons, that similar provisions affecting the rental agency's and the insurer's liability violated the public policy of the State of New York.
The order of the district court denying Buntin's motion for summary judgment and granting Continental's cross-motion for summary judgment will be reversed. The case will be remanded to the district court for the entry of appropriate orders consistent with this opinion, and the entry of judgment in favor of Buntin.
Buntin apparently argues that persons driving the car with the permission of the rentee are operating the car with the implied permission of the licensee (the rental agency). If such is the case, the endorsement as interpreted by Continental would contravene the statutory requirement that the rental agency insure the "driver". We express no opinion with respect to this argument.
Continental responds by arguing that the endorsement at issue is not required to be filed and approved in that it was "designed for and used with relation to insurance upon a particular subject", viz, "driverless cars".
Because of the ground on which we have disposed of this case, we need not, and therefore do not, reach this issue.