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Atlantic Casualty Insurance Co. v. Robinson

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 8, 2016

ATLANTIC CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS ROBINSON et al., Defendants.

          RULING GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, District Judge.

         This insurance case principally involves the scope of an assault-and-battery exclusion within a commercial general liability policy. Plaintiff Atlantic Casualty Insurance Company (Atlantic) has invoked this Court's diversity jurisdiction seeking declaratory relief that it has no duty to defend or to indemnify for injuries stemming from a brutal attack that occurred on the premises of Atlantic's policyholder. Because I conclude that the incident clearly falls within the scope of the assault-and-battery exclusion in the insurance policy, I will grant Atlantic's motions for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         This federal lawsuit is related to a prior state court complaint that was filed by Thomas Robinson against Paul Kopacz and Jon St. Pierre. Doc. #42-4. Robinson's state court complaint alleges that Kopacz owned a paving and landscaping business in Milford, Connecticut at which he employed Robinson. On December 2, 2006, Kopacz instructed Robinson to remain at his place of business overnight to prepare for a job early the next morning. That morning, Kopacz enlisted the help of St. Pierre to come to the premises to obtain certain so-called "business information" from Robinson by whatever means were required. St. Pierre proceeded to attack Robinson with a two-by-four and with steel-toed boots, then doused him with gasoline and lit him on fire.

         St. Pierre was found guilty of first-degree assault and third-degree arson, and Robinson eventually settled the state court case against Kopacz and St. Pierre for several million dollars. Atlantic had issued a commercial general liability insurance policy for Kopacz. Atlantic has filed this lawsuit for declaratory relief against Robinson, Kopacz, and St. Pierre. Default judgment has already entered against Kopacz and St. Pierre, and now Atlantic seeks summary judgment against Robinson.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment may be granted only if there is no genuine issue of fact for trial, and I must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) ( per curiam ). Of course, an insured's duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. "An insurer's duty to defend... is determined by reference to the allegations... in the [underlying] complaint." Community Action for Greater Middlesex City, Inc. v. American Alliance Insurance Co., 254 Conn. 387, 398-99 (2000). The duty to defend does not depend on whether the insured will ultimately be found liable. "If an allegation of the complaint falls even possibly within the coverage, then the insurance company must defend the insured." Community Action, 254 Conn. at 398-99.

         Atlantic argues that several provisions of the policy exclude coverage for the conduct that injured Robinson. Whatever the merits of the other arguments, it is at least clear to me that there was no possible coverage under the policy because of the very explicit exclusion for incidents arising from assault and battery. The policy contained the following language, under a section titled "Exclusion - Assault and/or Battery":

This insurance does not apply to and we have no duty to defend any claims or "suits" for "bodily injury "property damage" or "personal and advertising injury" arising in whole or in part out of:
(a) The actual or threatened assault or battery whether caused by or at the instigation or direction of any insured... or any other person;
(b) The failure of any insured or anyone else for whom any insured is legally responsible to prevent or suppress assault or battery; or
(c) The negligent employment, investigation, supervision, training or retention of a person for whom any insured is or ever was legally responsible and whose conduct would be excluded by (a) or (b) above.

         Doc. #1-1 at 43.

         As Robinson concedes, Connecticut courts have consistently found nearly identical provisions unambiguous and enforceable. SeeKelly v. Figueoredo,223 Conn. 31, 37 (1992). It is also clear from my reading of the state court complaint that Robinson "describes no... manner in which he sustained his injuries" other than from an assault and battery at the ...


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