INSURANCE-RELATED COURT CASES
Digested from case reports published online
Insanity defense bars recovery
Brown County Care Center, an adult care facility in Ohio, contracted with United Specialty Insurance Company for commercial general liability insurance. The policy specifically excluded coverage for bodily injury arising from “any actual, threatened or alleged assault or battery.” The policy did not define the terms “assault” or “battery.”
Austin Krewina lived at the center when fellow resident Colin Doherty attacked him with a knife. The center’s policy was in effect at that time. Among other alleged offenses, the state of Ohio charged Doherty with felonious assault, but the trial court found him not guilty by reason of insanity.
Krewina sued the center in the Hamilton County court of common pleas, and the parties settled the matter. As part of the settlement agreement, Krewina and the center entered into a stipulation in which the center consented and stipulated to a final judgment in favor of Krewina, and Krewina agreed not to pursue the judgment against the center. Krewina then brought a declaratory judgment action against United in the trial court to collect the judgment.
In the trial court, Krewina argued that United’s policy covered his injuries because the assault or battery exclusion did not apply. Krewina reasoned that Doherty did not have the mental state necessary under the law to commit an “assault” or a “battery” at the time of the attack. The trial court disagreed with Krewina, determining that he could not recover under the policy.
Because the policy at issue was a commercial general liability contract, the court concluded that the civil law definitions of “assault” and “battery” applied. And because Doherty committed civil assault under the policy, the court said it need not determine whether he committed civil battery. The court held that when a commercial general liability policy excludes coverage for injuries arising out of an “assault or battery,” the subjective intent of the person who committed the assault or battery is irrelevant.
Krewina moved for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. The case proceeded to a bench trial, after which the court entered judgment for United. The court found that United had no duty to indemnify the center, or to satisfy the almost $1 million settlement agreement between Krewina and the center, because the assault or battery exclusion provision in the policy barred coverage for Krewina’s injuries resulting from Doherty’s attack. The court found that because Doherty’s conduct fit the plain and ordinary language of the policy’s assault or battery exclusion provision, Krewina could not recover his judgment from United.
The court reversed the judgment of the first district and reinstated the judgment of the trial court. Krewina appealed.
On appeal, the first district court of appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment. The court concluded that “Krewina’s bodily injury did not arise out of an actual assault or battery.”
United appealed. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed the judgment of the first district court of appeals and reinstated the judgment of the trial court.
Krewina v. United Specialty Insurance Company—Court of Appeals for Hamilton County—
July 12, 2023—No. 2343.