Fire in Parked Car Counts as ‘Use,’ EU Court Finds

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

(CN) – Several years ago, a car parked in a Spanish garage caught fire and caused $50,000 in damage to the building. On Thursday, the European Court of Justice sided with the garage’s insurer and found the fire constituted “use” of the car for insurance purposes.

Property insurer Segurcaixa, Sociedad Anónima de Seguros y Reaseguros had to pay out nearly 45,000 euros to the owner of a building that was damaged by the fire, and it filed suit in March 2014 against auto insurer Linea Directa Aseguradora.

Though the trial court initially ruled against Segurcaixa, an appeals court reversed and found the fire was intrinsic to the vehicle.

At the time of the fire, the car was parked in the garage and had not been driven for more than 24 hours. Still the court found that the fire constituted a use since it was intrinsic to the vehicle, without any third-party interference.

Linea Directa next appealed to Spain’s Supreme Court, but the case has been on hold pending input from the EU high court in Luxembourg.

Following its magistrate’s advisory opinion, the EU high court ruled “vehicle use” includes catching fire while parked – regardless of how long it’s been since the car was moved.

“The parking and the period of immobilization of the vehicle are natural and necessary steps which form an integral part of the use of that vehicle as a means of transport. Thus, a vehicle is used in accordance with its function as a means of transport when it moves but, in principle, also while it is parked between two journeys,” the high court wrote in a 5-page opinion.

“In the present case, it must be held that parking a vehicle in a private garage constitutes a use of that vehicle which is consistent with its function as a means of transport. That conclusion is not affected by the fact that the vehicle was parked for more than 24 hours in that garage. Parking a vehicle presupposes that it remains stationary until its next trip, sometimes for a long period of time.”

The EU court’s opinion is binding on the Spanish Supreme Court.

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