NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY et al. v. JEFFREY S. PASIAK et al., SC 19618

Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk

 

      Insurance; Whether Appellate Court Properly Determined that Insured not Covered for Occurrence of Personal Injury by Virtue of Personal Umbrella Insurance Policy’s “Business Pursuits” Exclusion.  Sara Socci was an employee of Jeffrey S. Pasiak's construction company.  On May 9, 2006, while Socci was working alone in the company’s office in Pasiak's home, a masked intruder carrying a gun demanded that she open the safe.  The intruder tied, gagged and blindfolded Socci, pointed the gun at her head, and threatened to kill her family if she did not give him the safe’s combination.  Pasiak arrived during the incident, and the intruder was revealed to be a friend of Pasiak’s.  Pasiak and the friend talked, and the friend left.  Initially, Pasiak told Socci to stay and refused to allow her to call the police, but he eventually allowed her to leave.  Socci subsequently prevailed in a personal injury action she brought against Pasiak claiming false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress.  The plaintiff insurance companies issued Pasiak a personal umbrella insurance policy, and they brought this declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling that they had no duty to indemnify him for the damages awarded Socci in her personal injury action by operation of the policy’s “business pursuits” exclusion from coverage. The business pursuits exclusion provides that “[e]xcess liability and additional coverages do not apply to . . . [a]n occurrence arising out of the business pursuits or business property of an insured.”  The trial court concluded that the exclusion did not apply because Pasiak was trying to protect his friend rather than further any business pursuit, and ruled that the plaintiffs were obligated to indemnify Pasiak.  The plaintiffs appealed, and the Appellate Court (161 Conn. App. 86) reversed.  The court interpreted the term “arising out of” in the policy exclusion as establishing a broad standard of causation requiring only some connection between the incident giving rise to a claim for coverage and the insured's business pursuits and, further, as not being dependent on the motivations underlying the insured's actions.  It determined that the fact that Pasiak's conduct and Socci's injuries would not have occurred had Socci not been engaged in work for Pasiak's business at the time of her injuries was sufficient to satisfy that standard.  Pasiak and his company appeal, and the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the plaintiffs had no duty to indemnify Pasiak because there was no coverage under the business pursuits exclusion of the policy.