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A Better Partnership
July 19, 2017

COA: Insurer does not have to defend a lawsuit against a police officer that alleges conduct outside the of scope of employment

The Michigan Court of Appeals, in Matouk v. Michigan Municipal League Liability & Property Pool, No. 332482, reversed the trial court’s decision and held that an insurance company was not contractually required to provide a defense for a police officer in a federal civil rights action because the complaint alleged conduct that was not within the scope of the officer’s employment as that term was used in the insurer’s policy.
To determine whether a policy covers an individual, courts look to the plain language of the policy and interpret the terms. When a term within a policy is not defined, such as “scope of employment” in Matouk, the term is given its plain and ordinary meeting.  
Looking at scope of employment in Matouk, the Court established that an individual is within the “scope of employment” if he or she is “engaged in the service of his master, or while about his master’s business.” The Court noted that an individual may easily engage in activities outside the scope of his or her employment during regular work hours; therefore, the fact that the individual is “on duty” during those work hours is not conclusive when determining the coverage of an insurance policy.
In Matouk, the Court found that even though the officer was on duty for another city, he was not part of the police force in the cities that conducted the investigation challenged in the complaint’s allegations, and that his city’s police force was not named in the lawsuit. Furthermore, the officer was also not asked to assist in the investigation in any way, so any involvement, alleged in the complaint, that he had in the investigation was outside the “temporal and spatial” scope of his employment. Ultimately, the Court found that the insurance company had no duty to provide a defense for the officer. 

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