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Coverage for Bar Incident Shot Down (PA)

October 7, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Great-Lakes-Insurance-v.-Smithwick.pdf">Great Lakes Insurance v. Smithwick</a></em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/GREAT-LAKES-INSURANCE-v-VINCENT-SMITHWICK.pdf"></a><em>,</em> a Pennsylvania federal court addressed whether an insurance company has a duty to defend a policyholder from claims asserted by the victim of a shooting that took place outside of the policyholder's bar.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Smithwick sued various local entities, including Robert Mazer, for failing to recognize the history of crime in the neighborhood and failing to provide adequate security measures.  Great Lakes Insurance issued a commercial general liability policy to Mazer for the bar that was near the parking lot where the looking occurred.  This policy excluded coverage for personal injuries arising out of an assault and battery.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Great Lakes filed a declaratory judgment action in federal court seeking a declaration that it owed no duty to defend or indemnify Mazer in the Smithwick state court lawsuit and a declaration that it had no duty to satisfy any cross-claim for contribution and/or indemnification asserted by co-defendants in that suit, as well.  Smithwick argued that he was seeking damages for negligent security and not assault and/or battery.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The federal court ruled that Great Lakes owed no duty to defend Mazar against Smithwick’s allegations because the exclusion covered not only acts or assault or battery but it also excluded acts and omissions in connection with the prevention of an assault or battery.  In other words, the court found that the insurer was not obligated to defend its insured from allegations that the insured's failure to take certain precautions resulted in the victim's injuries.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Chelsea Rendelman for her contribution to this post.  Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="mailto:gcoats@wcmlaw.com">Georgia Coats</a>.</p>

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