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Defendant Accused Of Assault with Firearm Entitled To Coverage Under Homeowner’s Policy (NY)

January 12, 2017

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In the world of insurance coverage, it’s well known that the duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify.  Just how broad is the subject of many lawsuits, but a Third Department decision handed down today is an excellent example of how common perceptions are stretched to find coverage under an insurance policy.
In <a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Guzy-v.-New-York-Central-Mutual-Fire-Insurance-Company.pdf">G<em>uzy v. New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company</em></a><em>, </em>an insured sought coverage under his homeowner’s policy after being sued by in a personal injury action by a plaintiff who claimed that the insured intentionally shot him in the abdomen.  After receiving the claim, his insurance company disclaimed coverage based on the policy’s exclusion for “expected or intended conduct.”  In response, the insured, who had been arrested and charged for allegedly shooting the plaintiff, filed a declaratory judgment under his policy.
Although the plaintiff claimed the shooting was intentional, the court held that the exclusion did not relieve the insurer of its duty to defend.  In doing so, the court reasoned that despite the plaintiff’s allegations, the shooting could be reasonably interpreted as being accidental because a cause of action for assault can be established through recklessness or criminal negligence.
The broadness of an insurer’s duty to defend is well-known, but <em>Guzy </em>is an excellent example of how far courts can go in upholding the duty to defend.  Thanks to Michael Gauvin for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:BGibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.
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