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California Court of Appeal Upholds Firm Win!

August 19th, 2015/By Admin/In Appellate and Writs, Bad Faith and Coverage, Firm News, Firm News, Locations, Los Angeles

Once again – Tharpe & Howell’s Bad Faith Defense Team achieved excellent results for an insurance carrier client when the California Court of Appeal upheld the previous granting of a Motion for Summary Judgment in an action alleging bad faith!

In the underlying case, an insured of Fire Insurance Exchange (the Firm’s client), was sued for an alleged sexually motivated assault and false imprisonment.

In the subsequent bad faith case, the main issue concerned coverage for “false imprisonment” that was keyed to an “occurrence” defined as an “accident.”

In both actions, the insured maintained his act of admittedly cornering the plaintiff in a hotel hallway was committed under the incorrect assumption that his victim would consent to his advances.
In the bad faith case, the insured also contended that the policy issued by Fire Insurance Exchange was ambiguous and could not limit coverage for false imprisonment to “accidental” physical restraints because false imprisonment is inherently an “intentional” offense.

In the end, the Court of Appeal held that false imprisonment coverage can be limited to “accidental” offenses and that the insured had admitted that he acted “intentionally” to physically restrain his victim’s movement. The fact that the insured did not intend to cause harm or did not believe he would cause harm to his victim did not alter the fact that he intended to do what he did.  The Court of Appeal held that the insured’s conduct was thus not an “accident” and there was no duty to defend.

This was the first California Appellate decision to apply prior cases of workplace sexual harassment to non-workplace claims as authority that sexual harassment generally is not an “accident.” Previous cases have not relied on workplace-type employment harassment to sexual harassment between strangers.

This case summary has been brought to you by Trial Attorney Timothy Lake, a Partner of the Firm in the Sherman Oaks office and Chair of the Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith Practice Group.  If you would like more information about how the Firm can assist you with coverage issues and related matters, please contact Mr. Lake at (818) 205-9955.

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