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Motor carrier; direct action against insurer. Cobb State Court. Before Judge Adams.
On August 26, 1994, Dennis Edison, the father of the appellants, was involved in a fatal collision with a tractor-trailer owned and operated in the collision by Tony Frank Smith in Laurens County. The tractor-trailer was insured under a commercial motor vehicle liability policy issued by Southern General Insurance Company. Smith was an independent contractor hauling logs from the woods to the mill under contract with the timber producer and was working in such capacity at the time of the occurrence, carrying a load of logs. The policy of insurance covering this occurrence had not been approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) nor had it even been submitted for approval.
Appellant did not sue the owner-driver of the vehicle and sued only appellee under a direct action under OCGA 46-7-12 (e) in the State Court of Cobb County Smith was a resident of Mount Vernon, Georgia. Appellee in its answer raised the issue that it did not come within OCGA 46-7-12 and after giving notice filed its motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the appellee's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Smith was an exempt carrier of forest products and that the insurer did not come within OCGA 46-7-12 because the insured was exempt from regulation by the PSC.
1. By the express language of Ga. L. 1931, p. 199, 7; Ga. L. 1937, p. 730, 2; Ga. L. 1996, p. 950, 3, OCGA 46-7-12 (e) states: "If a policy of indemnity insurance is given in lieu of bond, it shall be permissible to join the motor carrier and the insurance carrier in the same action, whether arising in tort or contract." This provision is in derogation of common law and must be strictly construed against the party seeking to invoke it. Nat. Indem. Co. v. Tatum, 193 Ga. App. 698, 700 (388 SE2d 896) (1989); see Glenn McLendon Trucking Co. v. Williams, 183 Ga. App. 508, 509 (359 SE2d 351) (1987); Seaboard Air-Line R. v. Bishop, 132 Ga. 71, 85 (63 SE 1103) (1909); Haralson v. Speer, 1 Ga. App. 573, 575 (58 SE 142) (1907).
2. In Ga. L. 1931, Ex. Sess., pp. 99, 101, 2 and then in Ga. L. 1939, p. 207, 1, the General Assembly expressly exempted forest products and logs being transported from the forest to the mill from the jurisdiction of the PSC and its regulation; in Ga. L. 1980, p. 479, 1, the General Assembly re-enacted such exemption, as well as in Ga. L. 1984, p. 1394, 1; Ga. L. 1986, p. 1283, 1; Ga. L. 1990, p. 709, 1, 2; Ga. L. 1993, p. 579, 1 (OCGA 46-1-1 (9) (C) (x)). By such express exemption from the jurisdiction of the PSC, timber haulers were removed from the effect of OCGA 46-7-12.
Co., supra at 700. Therefore, as a matter of law the insurer was entitled to summary judgment.
Newton, Smith, Durden, Kaufold & Rice, Wilson R. Smith, for appellee.
Jason T. Schneider, for appellants.
Thursday May 21 05:58 EDT

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