Not too drunk to sucker punch
On the evening of June 26, 2013, Ryan Casey, then 17 years old, attended the St. Peter’s fiesta celebration in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with two friends, Dylan Chaney and Forrest Turner. Before arriving, Casey had consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana. At some point while at the fiesta, Casey encountered Evan Williams, also 17 years old, and the two left on foot in the company of Chaney and Turner, allegedly to go smoke marijuana. After the group arrived at a remote location nearby, Casey “sucker punched” Williams in the face with a closed fist. Casey then punched Williams in the face several more times, kicked him in the face once, and departed with Chaney and Turner, leaving Williams seriously injured on the ground.
Eventually Williams got to his feet and located the other three nearby. As Williams approached and spoke with Chaney and Turner, Casey separated from the group, came up behind Williams, and again “sucker punched” him in the face with a closed fist, causing additional serious injuries. Casey, Chaney, and Turner then departed for a second time.
Subsequently, Casey was indicted for the attacks and pleaded guilty to assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon (shod foot) and assault and battery causing serious bodily harm. He was sentenced for the first offense to two and a half years in a house of correction, with two years to be served and the balance suspended while he served a three-year period of probation for the second offense.
Williams made a claim under the Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company homeowners policy of Casey’s parents. Potentially both Casey and Williams were entitled to coverage under the policy. As an insured under the policy, Casey was potentially entitled to a defense and to personal liability coverage (Coverage E). Williams, in turn, was potentially entitled to “medical payments to others” coverage (Coverage F). The policy contained exclusions, including a clause providing that coverage E and coverage F “do not apply to ‘bodily injury’ … [w]hich is expected or intended by the ‘insured,’ even if the resulting ‘bodily injury’ … is of a different kind, quality, or degree than initially expected or intended.”
Liberty Mutual filed an action seeking a declaration that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Casey, or to pay medical expenses for Williams, because of the exclusion for bodily injury that the insured expected or intended.
On cross motions for summary judgment, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Liberty Mutual, concluding as a matter of law that Casey expected or intended to cause Williams bodily injury. Williams and Casey appealed.
On appeal, Williams and Casey maintained that a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether Casey’s voluntary consumption of alcohol and marijuana before the attacks prevented him from forming the intent to injure Williams, thereby precluding the entry of summary judgment.
Casey was arrested by the Gloucester police one week after the attacks and was interviewed by two detectives. The transcript of the interview reflected that, when queried about the reason behind his actions, Casey explained that he had lent Williams money to purchase marijuana approximately one year earlier, and Williams had not fully repaid him. In Casey’s view, Williams had “robbed” him, and that thought came back to him when he saw Williams at the fiesta, causing him to become “pretty heated.”
As the group started walking away from the fiesta to smoke marijuana, the “wheels started spinning” in Casey’s mind and he thought, “OK, when [he got] down there,” he was going to “whack” Williams; Casey made a “plan to hit him.” By Casey’s own admission, he proceeded to do just that; he “sucker punched” and kicked Williams. Finally, when Williams found and approached the trio after the first attack, Casey admitted that he “snuck around again and … hit him again.”
According to the court, even though Casey was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, he was by his own admission not so significantly under the influence that he lost the capacity to plan, and to act effectively on that plan. Casey admitted that he “intend[ed] to touch” Williams, and that he (Casey) understood, at least at the time of his deposition, that “[w]hen you hit somebody with a fist … you know you’re going to do some level of injury.”
According to the court, based on Casey’s own memory of the events, there was no genuine dispute that, notwithstanding his consumption of alcohol and marijuana, Casey had the capacity to form the intent, and did intend and plan, to hit Williams. Given the nature of the act, Casey must be held as a matter of law to have expected or intended to cause Williams some bodily injury. The judge therefore did not err in ruling that the policy exclusion for bodily injuries expected or intended by the insured relieved Liberty Mutual of its duties to defend and to indemnify Casey and to pay medical benefits to Williams.
Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company vs. Casey-Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Essex-March 29, 2017- 2017 WL 1186467.