Auto insurance in Oregon generally provides benefits for persons who suffer injuries “arising out of the use of a motor vehicle.” In the DeZafra case, a woman rode as a passenger in her family car when another car pulled alongside them and began shooting at them. The woman was shot and injured. She made a claim for benefits under her automobile insurance policy with Farmers Insurance Company, claiming that her injuries arose out of the perpetrators “use of a motor vehicle.” Her insurance company argued that the injuries were not directly caused by a motor vehicle and therefore no benefits were available. The trial court agreed with the insurance company and dismissed the claim.
Travis was hired to appeal the case on behalf of the woman to the Oregon Court of Appeals. He argued that the injury arose from the “use of a motor vehicle,” because the perpetrators use of the vehicle was a substantial factor in causing the injury. Specifically, the perpetrators used the vehicle (1) to create an element of surprise so that the woman and her family could not defend themselves; (2) to be able to drive alongside the family car to position the shooter to fire at the family; and (3) to help the perpetrators flee after causing the injury. Simply put, the injury could not have happened without the perpetrators’ use of the car. Therefore the injuries arose out of the “use of a motor vehicle” and insurance benefits should have been provided. The Court of Appeals agreed with Travis’s arguments and held that the woman’s insurance extended to the drive-by shooting injuries.