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Prime Insurance Co. v. Wright

Decardo Humphrey, a truck driver for Riteway Trucking, drove a truck from South Holland, Illinois, where all his trips began, to Fort Wayne, Indiana. After Mr. Humphrey dropped off a load, Riteway’s dispatcher in Illinois directed him to pick up another load at another site in Fort Wayne. While driving to the pickup site, Mr. Humphrey’s truck collided with a car driven by Darnell Wright. Mr. Humphrey subsequently picked up the load and brought it back to Illinois.

Mr. Wright obtained a judgment against Riteway for damages for injuries he sustained in the crash. Prime Insurance Company, Riteway’s insurer, then filed this case, seeking a declaration that it was not liable for the judgment. The coverage issue turns on an insurance endorsement called the MCS-90 endorsement. In that endorsement, Prime agreed to pay any judgment for public liability against Riteway arising from the negligent use of motor vehicles subject to the Motor Carrier Act’s financial responsibility provisions. Those provisions, in turn, require motor carriers to maintain minimum levels of financial responsibility to cover liability “for the transportation of property by motor carrier or motor private carrier (as such terms are defined in section 13102 of [Title 49]) … between a place in a State and … a place in another State.” 49 U.S.C. § 31139(b)(1).

The district court granted summary judgment for Mr. Wright, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court of appeals held that the relevant question in determining whether travel is subject to section 31139(b)(1), and thus whether the MCS-90 endorsement applies, is whether the collision occurred during the interstate transportation of property, and that Mr. Humphrey had been engaged in in the interstate transportation of property at the time of the crash.

Prime filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court. Serving as co-counsel for Mr. Wright in the Supreme Court, we prepared the brief in opposition, explaining that there was no conflict over whether a truck is engaged in the interstate transportation of property under circumstances such as those here and that the Seventh Circuit correctly held that Mr. Humphrey was engaged in the interstate transportation of property at the time of the crash. The Court then denied the petition.