Must homeowner’s insurer pay for shooting victims’ injuries?

John S. Keck went to the home of his ex-girlfriend KarenAdams to demand she choose between him and her new boyfriend Andrew Slentz.Adams chose Slentz.

Keck left and returned 30 minutes later with a rifle. Heshot at Adams several times from close range, wounding her. Then he chasedSlentz and eventually shot him. Keck then killed himself.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Adams and Slentz sued Keck’s estate, along with ContinentalInsurance Co. with whom Keck had a homeowner’s insurance policy. Keck’s estatesettled. Continental then sued for a declaratory judgment, asking the court todecide if the company is liable to Adams and Slentz under Keck’s homeowner’sinsurance policy.

Continental submitted its policy, which says the insurer isnot liable for intentional acts even if the insured person lacks the mentalcapacity to govern his or her conduct. The policy also says this exclusionapplies whether the insured is charged with or convicted of a crime.

If you were the judge, would you order Continental InsuranceCo. to pay damages to Adams and Slentz for their injuries?

The judge said no!

“Here, the evidence as to Keck’s actions wasuncontroverted. There was no question of material fact as to whether Keck actedintentionally when he retrieved the rifle, returned to Adam’s home, and shotboth Adams and Slentz at close range,” the judge explained.

“A claim that the shooting was somehow unintentionalwould be unsound,” he continued.

“The insurance policy’s plain language unambiguouslyprecludes coverage for losses incurred through an insured’s intentional act,even if the insured lacks the mental capacity to govern his own conduct,”the judge emphasized.

Homeowner’s insurance policy clauses limiting liability tounintentional acts, irrespective of mental capacity, have long beenenforceable, the judge ruled. Therefore, Continental Insurance Co. has noliability to Adams and Slentz for the intentional shootings by Keck, the judgeconcluded.

Based on the 2006 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in ContinentalInsurance Co. v. Adams, 438 Fed.3d 538.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

Copyright 2006 Inman News

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