Maryland Gunshot Victim Wins Claim for Insurance Coverage of Pub’s Negligence Settlement

Insurance coverage can be crucial if substantial damages are awarded in a personal injury claim. In some instances, the plaintiff must undergo another court battle against the defendant’s insurance company to obtain a judgment. Guidance from an experienced Maryland premises liability attorney is particularly beneficial in cases involving insurance firms, as demonstrated in a July 27, 2017 case.

The plaintiff in the case had visited a pub to watch a basketball game. As he was opening the door to exit the pub, he was struck by a bullet. The shooter was neither apprehended nor identified. The pub and the plaintiff reached a consent judgment agreement, in which the pub admitted negligence and agreed to a settlement of $100,000 for medical expenses and noneconomic damages. Thereafter, the plaintiff made a demand on the pub’s insurance company for payment of the settlement, which was denied. The plaintiff then filed an action for breach of contract against the insurance company. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages in the amount of $100,000. The insurance company appealed the decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The policy at issue contained an provision that excluded coverage for bodily injuries arising out of assault and battery. The primary issue for the court, therefore, was whether or not the shooting incident constituted a battery under the policy exclusion. The appeals court noted that there was no evidence regarding the identity of the shooter or whether the shooting was intentional or accidental. The absence of such evidence also raised the question of whether the intent of the shooter must be established to distinguish the injury from one that arises out of an accident. The court answered the question affirmatively, explaining that if evidence of intent was not necessary, virtually all bodily injuries caused by another person would be barred under the policy exclusion, including accidental injuries.

The court also reviewed the policy to ascertain whether the assault and battery exclusion applied to unintentional or accidental acts. The court concluded that the provision was subject to more than one reasonable interpretation, and as a result, it construed the scope of the exclusion against the insurance company. The court found that by leaving the policy definition of battery silent on the issue of intent, the meaning of the term took on its traditional sense under both common and criminal laws, which require an intentional act. Accordingly, the court held that the exclusion applied only to intentional acts of assault and battery.

The court went on to find that, without sufficient evidence that the plaintiff was shot intentionally, the insurance company failed to establish that the plaintiff’s injury was excluded from coverage as a battery. Although the court lowered the judgment to $75,000 on procedural grounds, the court upheld a majority of the verdict.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our experienced Maryland attorneys can advise people who have been injured in accidents caused by negligent businesses or individuals. We represent plaintiffs against insurance companies and other defendants in medical malpractice actions, premises liability cases, motor vehicle collisions, and other personal injury claims.  Arrange a free consultation with a skilled injury lawyer by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Orders Insurance Company to Cover Loss for Wrongful Death Claims Arising Out of Car Accident, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 17, 2016

Maryland Plaintiff Wins on Appeal in Slip and Fall Case Against Convenience Store, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 5, 2016

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