Homeowners Insurer To Defend Lawsuit Filed After On-Premises Overdose
Most homeowners’ insurance policies contain criminal conduct exclusions that prevent your policy from triggering if you commit some criminal conduct that results in the injury or death of one of your guests. This provision is now the subject of a personal injury lawsuit in which the defendant’s son was dealing drugs out of the defendant’s house. The son caused the death of a guest which resulted in a personal injury lawsuit against the parents under their homeowner’s insurance policy. The insurer claimed that the incident wasn’t covered due to a criminal conduct exclusion. However, a Pennsylvania court ruled that they will have to defend the homeowners under their policy since an allegation of negligence was involved.
The parents of a boy went away for the weekend and he invited his friend over. The friend said he was trying to help the boy get employment and stay clean. However, the friend never woke up after using fentanyl and benzodiazepines, two drugs that act as a respiratory depressant and can stop breathing by themselves and especially when taken together. The friend’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the parents and the boy claiming they were negligent for allowing drug abuse in their home. Their insurer raised the defense that a policy exclusion applies in this case and the insurer did not have to defend the parents from the lawsuit. The parents filed a motion compelling the insurance company to defend. The court agreed with the parents and now the insurance company must defend them from the lawsuit as well as paying out any compensation covered under the policy.
The issue here was that some of the allegations were covered by the policy exclusion. Notably, insurance companies generally do not have to pay out claims related to overdoses on-premises. However, the second allegation of negligence by the parents of the boy who supplied the drugs is included in the policy. Since there is one allegation that the plaintiffs made that the insurance company does have to defend, the court ruled that the insurance company must defend the entire suit. In other words, if you make one accusation against a defendant that triggers a policy, the insurance company must defend you from all the allegations.
Another element is the language of the policy only included “bodily injury” resulting from drug use. However, the court noted that claims related to emotional distress are still permitted under the policy so long as negligence remains a key allegation.
While the issue was resolved favorably for the plaintiff, they did have to wait until a trial court and appellate court ruled on the policy terms and language. With the matter resolved in favor of the homeowners, the grieving mother will be able to file part of her claim on the policy.
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