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Insurance Company Cannot Escape Liability Just Because Driver Died of Heart Attack In Parked Vehicle: Karnataka HC

Mustafa Plumber
21 Sep 2022 9:16 AM GMT
Insurance Company Cannot Escape Liability Just Because Driver Died of Heart Attack In Parked Vehicle: Karnataka HC
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The Karnataka High Court has held that an insurance company is not absolved of its liability to pay compensation, in case the driver of an insured vehicle dies of heart attack during the course of employment, only on the ground that the tipper lorry was not in use at the time of his death.Referring to an earlier ruling in which the court held that driving is undoubtedly a tension-filled...

The Karnataka High Court has held that an insurance company is not absolved of its liability to pay compensation, in case the driver of an insured vehicle dies of heart attack during the course of employment, only on the ground that the tipper lorry was not in use at the time of his death.

Referring to an earlier ruling in which the court held that driving is undoubtedly a tension-filled job, Justice H P Sandesh of Dharwad bench said, "The Court has to take note of policy taken in order to cover the risk of the driver during the course of employment. I have already pointed out that respondent No.1 [employer] in the written statement in para No.2 categorically admitted that the death is in the course of employment and the same cannot be disputed by the insurer."

The court dismissed the appeal filed by The Divisional Manager National Insurance Company Limited questioning the judgement and award passed in August 2009 by the Workmen's Commissioner. The Commissioner had fastened liability on the Insurance Company by ordering grant of compensation of Rs.3,03,620/- with 12% interest to the legal heirs of the deceased driver Eranna.

The insurance company earlier argued that the death is on account of cardiac failure and the same is not a ground of usage of the vehicle, which was parked near a petrol bunk. The death was on account of blockage in the heart, the court was told. It was also argued that owner of the vehicle had lodged a complaint stating that the driver was in the habit of intoxication everyday and when he was consuming alcohol, there is no liability on the employer to pay the compensation. 

Findings:

The bench on going through the records noted that Insurance Company cannot contend that death was not during the course of employment. On the allegation that the driver was taking intoxicated drugs, the bench said,

"No doubt in the complaint as well as in the charge sheet based on the complaint given by the employer the same is stated. But in order to prove the factum that he has consumed the alcohol, no material is placed before the court. The postmortem report is also very silent and nothing is on record."

The court also said the owner of the vehicle has not been examined, thus the very allegation in the complaint as well in the charge sheet has not been corroborated. 

The bench further said the contention that it was only a "natural death" and company is not liable to pay the same, cannot be accepted. it also said that claimants before the Commissioner had specifically said that the driver died on account stress related to the employment.  

"There need not necessarily be the vehicle must be in usage at the time of his death and Court has to take note of casual connection with employment and death and the policy is taken to cover the risk of the driver," said the court.

The court also said the driver died while he was sleeping in the vehicle on a working day, and noted that the owner has admitted that the person died during the course of employment. 

Case Title: THE DIVISIONAL MANAGER NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED v SHANKARAMMA & others

Case No: M.F.A. NO.20003/2010

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 371

Date of Order: 9TH DAY OF SEPTEMBER, 2022

Appearance: Advocate S K KAYAKAMATH for appellant.

SHIVAKUMAR S BADAWADAGI, ADVOCATE FOR R1,

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment


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