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Miami Homeowners Insurance Lawyers Talk About Exclusions for Intentional Acts

Generally speaking, homeowner’s insurance policies only cover negligent acts. Most homeowner’s insurance policies specifically exclude from coverage intentional acts committed by a person covered under the policy. The case of Prudential Property & Casualty v. Swindal is a good example of an insurance company claiming they are not obligated to cover acts which a person committed an intentional act and severely harmed another person. The homeowner’s insurance attorneys at Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano have the experience to effectively assert that the exclusions should not apply to achieve the best possible outcome for their clients.

As Miami’s preeminent homeowner’s insurance lawyers, we have seen cases that involved the legal issues like Prudential v. Swindal. In that case, the tortfeasor, or the person who committed the wrongful act, shot the victim Swindal in the head during a heated argument. Swindal and the tortfeasor Castellano were engaged in an ongoing disagreement. One man held the other at gunpoint for approximately 45 minutes. When that incident failed to resolve their differences, they attended mediation. Mediation also failed. On the day Castellano shot Swindal, Swindal went to Castellano’s home wielding a hammer. Castellano mistakenly thought Swindal had a gun, retrieved his gun. Castellano approached Swindal with the intent to scare Swindal. Castellano did not engage the weapon’s safety but did have his finger off of the trigger. Castellano reached into Swindal’s car, and a struggle ensued over Castellano’s firearm. The gun discharged during the fight. The round struck Swindal in the head causing permanent damage to him.

Interestingly, a jury acquitted Castellano of any crime. However, Swindal sued Castellano and Castellano’s homeowner’s insurance company, Prudential, filed an action in court seeking a declaratory judgment on its obligations under the insurance contract.  Prudential argued that the insurance contract in place at the time of the shooting relieved Prudential of its obligation to pay any claims arising from the shooting incident.  Lower courts went back and forth on whether an intentional act or a negligent act caused the injuries because, after all, Castellano only intended to scare Swindal, he did not intend to shoot him.

Florida’s highest court carefully examined the case. One rule of law they reaffirmed was the standard terms used for torts such as intentional or negligent do not control the understanding of the insurance contract. Rather, the precise language of the insurance contract controls the parties’ obligations.  The court also reaffirmed another rule of law, favorable to insurance policy holders, that courts interpret insurance contracts according to their ordinary meaning, for the benefit of the insured and not the insurance company.  Castellano’s insurance policy excluded coverage for personal injured intended or expected to be caused by the insured.

Courts do not read foreseeability into insurance contracts. Of course, it is foreseeable that someone could be shot if one person introduces a gun into a verbal sparring match. But, the court reasoned that the language of the insurance contract did not mention foreseeability. Moreover, insurance contracts need certainty. One could read foreseeability into nearly every situation, and insurance companies would enjoy unintentional exclusions. Thus, the case came down to whether a jury found Castellano intended to shoot Swindal. If a jury makes that finding, then the exclusion applies. If the jury concludes that the shooting was unintentional, then Prudential is presently liable to cover Castellano for damages.

South Florida Homeowner’s Insurance Policy Lawyers Ready To Help You

Insurance contracts are difficult to figure out. If you have a question about whether your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover your claim, contact the law firm given a top rating by the Miami Herald: Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano. They have 130 combined years of experience. They will fight for you. Call the firm Martindale Hubbell gave an AV rating at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 today to book your free consultation.

Source:

PRUDENTIAL PROPERTY AND CAS. v. Swindal, 622 So. 2d 467 – Fla: Supreme Court 1993

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