Intentional Acts

Weatherford attorneys and those in Mineral Wells, Aledo, Azle, Springtown, Peaster, Willow Park, Hudson Oaks, Brock, Millsap, and other places in Parker County need to understand how insurance policies and intentional acts interact.
The Austin Court of Appeals issued an opinion in 1995, that addresses coverage and intentional acts. The style of the case is, Barbara Misle v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.
State Farm filed a suit for declaratory relief and recovered summary judgment that it had no duty to defend under the liability insurance provisions of an automobile insurance policy. Here is some background.
Duane Howard drove a car driven by Opal Ogiste while Octavio Simms and Duane Howard rode as passengers. Howard instructed Meador to drive Ogiste’s automobile so that they could shoot at people with an air rifle or “BB Gun” for fun. While at a stop, Howard shot into a crowd of people from about 15 feet and hit Misle in the chest.
Misle because of her nearness to the shot and her slim build had to seek emergency care and surgery at a local hospital. She sued all the occupants of the car for negligence. Howard testified in the lawsuit that he was “not trying to hurt anyone” but to “laugh at their reaction.”
State Farm argued the policy covered accidents, not intentional acts. The language in the policy they referenced reads that State Farm is obliged to “pay damages for bodily injury … for which any covered person becomes legally responsible because of an accident.” An exclusion provided, however, that State Farm’s obligation did not include liability “for any person … who intentionally causes bodily injury.” It was undisputed that Howard’s act of discharging the air rifle was an intentional act.
In discussing this case, the court pointed out that in ascertaining whether an insured intended to cause “bodily injury” by his intentional act, the supreme court “relies on the definition of intent provided in the Restatement [Second] of Torts.” Under that definition “an insured intends to injure or harm another if he intends the consequences of his act, or believes they are substantially certain to follow.” The court said if the evidence shows that Howard intended, as a matter of law, that a battery should be the consequence of his act of discharging the air rifle, then he intended to cause “bodily injury” within the meaning of the policy exclusion.
Citing further from the Restatement [Second] of Torts, the court said, “If an act is done with the intention of inflicting upon another an offensive but not a harmful bodily contact, or of putting another in apprehension of either a harmful or offensive bodily contact, and such act causes a bodily contact to the other, the actor is liable to the other for a battery although the act was not done with the intention of bringing about the resulting bodily harm. “It is not necessary that the actor intend to bring about the harmful contact which results from his act. It is enough that he intends to bring about an offensive contact or an apprehension of either a harmful or offensive contact” from which bodily harm results … even though the actor only intends a slight contact that would ordinarily cause no bodily harm or intends no contact at all.
In this case, it is undisputed that Howard discharged the air rifle with the specific intention of getting a “reaction” from those at whom the shots were directed, even though he did not intend specific harm to Misle or the seriousness of the harm that resulted.
This case had tough facts in it. An experienced Insurance Law Attorney knows ways that work to defeat these intentional act claims by insurance companies. Always consult with an attorney early in these cases.