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NY App. Div. Upholds Summary Judgment to Insurer in Intentional Crash

February 3, 2011

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The case of Commercial Insurance Company of Newark v. Popadich involved a rather sensational incident which took place in Manhattan several years ago. In February 2002, on two separate occasions, Ronald Popadish drove into Manhattan and ran down 27 pedestrians.
One of Popadich’s, victims, Chetan Mangat, then brought a personal injury action against Popadich in Supreme Court, Kings County for injuries he suffered after being struck by Popadich’s vehicle. Popadich’s insurer, Commercial Insurance Company of Newark provided Popadich with counsel to defend him in that action under a reservation of rights. Although, after his arrest, Popadich had confessed that he drove into Manhattan for the sole purpose of running over as many people as possible, Mangat was awarded summary judgment in the Kings County action on the basis that Popadich's negligence caused Mangat's injuries.
Commercial Insurance then brought a declaratory judgment action in Supreme Court, New York County against Popadich, Mangat and other victims of Popadich’s rampage. In the New York County action, Commercial sought a declaration that it owed Popadich no duty to defend or indemnify arguing that Popadich’s actions were intentional and, as such, the resulting injuries were not covered under the policy.
The New York County court rejected the proposition that Commercial Insurance was estopped from bringing the declaratory judgment action due to its appointment of counsel in the Kings County action, noting its reservation of rights and the fact that the issue of intentional acts was not argued in that case. Citing Popadich’s signed and transcribed confession, the New York County granted summary judgment to Commercial Insurance on the grounds that Popadich’s actions were intentional. This decision was upheld on appeal to the Appellate Division.
Thanks to Katusia Lundi for her contribution to this post.
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