Insurance Coverage And Intentional Acts

Most Garland insurance lawyers will be able to tell you that the majority of insurance policies do not cover claims that are the result of an intentional act. But just because an act is intentional does not mean that acts of others that may have facilitated the intentional act are excluded from coverage. This is explained in a 1998, Houston Court of Appeals [14th Dist.] case styled, Williamson v. Vanguard Underwriters Insurance Company. Here is some of the relevant information from that case.
Vanguard Insurance Company had issued a homeowners insurance policy to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. The Wilsons’ son was involved in a plot to rob Mathew Vickers, and during the robbery, Kimberly Williamson was killed. Kimberly’s parents brought a wrongful death suit against Mr. and Mrs. Wilson alleging that they were negligent in their supervision of their son, Michael Wilson. The Wilsons settled the case, and they then sought to be indemnified under the homeowner policy issued by Vanguard. Vanguard filed a declaratory judgement claiming that the “intentional injury” exclusion in the policy barred coverage. The exclusion stated that the insurance did not apply to:
a. bodily injury or property damage which is caused intentionally by or at the direction of the insured.
The insurance policy also contained a severability clause that stated:
Severability of Insurance. This insurance applies separately to each insured. This condition will not increase our limit of liability for any one occurrence.
The trial Judge granted summary judgment in favor of Vanguard based on the exclusion, and the Wilsons appealed the judgment.
This Houston Court of Appeals reversed the trial Court. In doing so, they said the exclusion states that the insurance does not apply to bodily injury that is caused by the insured. The wording of the exclusion along with the severability clause makes it clear that the exclusion applies to each insured separately. Since the Wilsons did not intentionally injure Kimberly Williamson, the exclusion did not bar coverage for the negligent supervision cause of action against them. If the insurance company wanted to exclude coverage for all insureds with regard to a claim of intentional injury committed by any insured, the policy should so state in clear terms.
For insurance attorneys, it is important that lawsuits they file on behalf of their clients have language in them that show acts of negligence in order to get coverage. This is sometimes hard to do and illustrates why it is necessary to get an “experienced” insurance law attorney in order to maximize the probability of making a recovery.