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NJ Court Considers Insanity Defense in Coverage Case

January 13, 2011

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Electric Insurance Company issued a homeowners policy to Teddy Marcantonis, who, in December of 2008, murdered the lover of his ex-girlfriend, Joe Martorana. He then committed suicide by lighting his car on fire while it was parked at his ex-girlfriends farm.
Martorana’s estate later filed a wrongful death action against the Marcantonis estate. EIC agreed to defend the action under a reservation of rights, and filed a DJ to establish that it did not owe any coverage under the policy.
EIC argued that the murder did not qualify as an “occurrence” under the policy because it was not accidental. The defense, however, produced expert reports that alleged that Marcantonis suffered from a significant psychiatric disorder that deprived him of the ability to govern his conduct with reason. Thus, the defense argued that the murder was not intentional and instead an accident – which would trigger coverage.
The court seemed to consider the merits of the argument, but found that there was no objective support for the claim that Marcantonis suffered from a psychiatric disorder, and instead pointed to the facts that showed the murder was premeditated. We agree with the outcome, but are curious if the Court would have actually found the “insanity defense” viable in this coverage dispute with a different set of facts.
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