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2012-UP-005 - Auto-Owners Insurance v. Long

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals


Auto-Owners Insurance Company, Appellant,

v.

Joseph Gordon Long, Bruce A. Carter, Administrator of the Estate of Martha Jean Carter, and GMAC, Defendants,

Of whom Bruce A. Carter, Administrator of the Estate of Martha Jean Carter is the Respondent.


Appeal from Anderson County
Alexander S. Macaulay, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No.  2012-UP-005
Heard December 6, 2011 – Filed January 4, 2012


AFFIRMED


Dominic Allen Starr, of Myrtle Beach, for Appellant.

Joseph S. McCue, of Columbia, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Auto-Owners Insurance Company appeals from the circuit court's determination that the use of a vehicle it insures was causally connected to a collision.  We affirm. 

Auto-Owners acknowledged that its insured's towed vehicle was "in use" when the collision occurred.  As a result, the only question before the circuit court was whether a causal connection existed between the vehicle's use and the collision that caused Martha Jean Carter's injuries and subsequent death. 

At the time of the collision, Joseph Long was driving a motor home, insured by GMAC, and the motor home was towing a Saturn automobile, insured by Auto-Owners.  The motor home, tow bar, and Saturn comprised a single vehicular unit that was over 50 feet long.  Mr. Long had entered the intersection and was attempting to make a left turn onto Northbound US 76 (a four-lane highway divided by a 28-foot median) when a collision occurred between Mr. Long's vehicular unit and Mrs. Carter's 1996 Chevrolet Suburban SUV. 

We agree with the circuit court's ruling that Mr. Long's use of the Saturn was causally connected to the accident because the Saturn and the attached tow bar added over 16 feet to the total length of the vehicular unit: when the vehicles collided, Mr. Long's vehicular unit was blocking the majority of Southbound US 76—the direction in which Mrs. Carter was traveling.  Mr. Long's vehicular unit was blocking over half the outside, 11-foot, Southbound lane; the entire inside, 11-foot, Southbound lane, in which Mrs. Carter was traveling; the entire inside, 10-foot, Southbound turning lane; and 23 feet of the 28-foot median separating Southbound and Northbound traffic.  As a witness testified: "At the time of the impact, the motor home and Saturn blocked so much of the roadway that M[r]s. Carter had nowhere to maneuver to avoid hitting the motor home."

Accordingly, we affirm pursuant to Rule 220(b)(1), SCACR, and the following authorities: Gordon v. Colonial Ins. Co. of Cal., 342 S.C. 152, 155, 536 S.E.2d 376, 378 (Ct. App. 2000) (stating the law of the state in which the insurance policy is issued controls the court's interpretation of that policy);[1] State Capital Ins. Co. v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 350 S.E.2d 66, 69 (1986) (emphasis added) ("[T]he test for determining whether an automobile liability policy provides coverage for an accident is not whether the automobile was a proximate cause of the accident.  Instead, the test is whether there is a causal connection between the use of the automobile and the accident.").

AFFIRMED.

SHORT, WILLIAMS, and GEATHERS, JJ., concur.


[1]  Here, because Long's Auto-Owners policy was issued in North Carolina, the parties stipulated that North Carolina law governs the court's interpretation and application of the Auto-Owners policy.