Chavez v. Arizona School Risk Retention Trust (CA2 5/18/11)

The Court of Appeals holds that a school bus’s insurance covers students waiting to get on.

Two children were injured when a car ran into the back of the school bus they were in line to board. The Trust insures the school district, including the buses. Plaintiffs sought UIM coverage from the Trust policy. On cross motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted the Trust’s.

The Court of Appeals reverses, holding that waiting to board a school bus constitutes “using” the bus. By statute, all persons using, with permission, a vehicle are covered by its insurance.  “Using” has been held to include loading and unloading (no word on whether the Trust’s policy also said this, as most do). And the use of a specialized vehicle can depend on its purpose. One of the purposes of a school bus is to provide for the safety of students getting on and off  by using – as this one was at the time of the accident – its special lights; so, the students were using the bus’s specialized function of protecting them.

Though this isn’t the hardest issue in the world, this is a nice, clean opinion. The three footnotes are superfluous but short. It could have been done in fewer pages but we’ve learned to stop complaining about anything under ten.

(link to opinion)