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Applicability of Assault and Battery Exclusion Dependent Upon Policy Definitions

October 7, 2016

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In <a href="">qbe-ins-corp-v-walters</a>, the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed the applicability of an insurance policy’s assault and battery exclusion.
In <em>QBE Ins. Corp</em>., the insured owned a café.  On September 9, 2011, an altercation occurred in the café’s parking lot that resulted in a patron being shot.  The patron sued the café in a complaint that sounded in negligence.  Specifically, the patron contended the café failed to properly train and supervise its employees.  The insurer filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration of no coverage on the basis of the policy’s assault and battery exclusion.   The insured argued that since the patron’s underlying complaint averred that the insured acted negligently in the hiring, training, and supervision of its employees, as well its failure to warn the patron of a dangerous condition, the assault and battery exclusion did not bar coverage.   However, the exclusion broadly defined assault or battery as, among other things, the negligent employment, investigation, supervision, training, and retention of a person for whom any insured is or was ever legally responsible .
Thus, the court concluded that since the exclusion included negligent employment, investigation, supervision, and/or training of a person for whom it was legally responsible as part of its definition of assault and battery – the alleged negligent conduct of the insured and/or of its employees fell squarely within the policy’s definition of assault and battery.  Consequently, the exclusion acted as a complete bar to coverage.
This case demonstrates the importance of carefully looking to an insurance policy’s defined terms, as the applicability of a policy provision or exclusion may turn on a close reading of these definitions.
Thanks to Collen Haynes for her contribution to this post.


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