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Insurance Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Roy, Christopher


SC19618 - Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Pasiak ("This declaratory judgment action concerns whether an insurer is obligated to indemnify a business owner under a personal insurance policy for liability arising from his false imprisonment of his company’s employee at her workplace and the evidentiary basis on which such a determination is to be made. In this certified appeal, the defendant Jeffrey S. Pasiak challenges the Appellate Court’s determination that such liability fell under the business pursuits exclusion to coverage under his personal umbrella policy. The plaintiffs, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company, contend that coverage not only is barred under the business pursuits exclusion, but also that (1) coverage is barred under policy exclusions for workers’ compensation obligations and for mental abuse, (2) construing the policy to provide indemnification for common-law punitive damages arising from intentional wrongdoing violates public policy, and (3) the trial court improperly limited the scope of discovery and the declaratory judgment trial, depriving the plaintiffs of a trial de novo on coverage issues that they could not litigate in the underlying tort action.

We hold that the case must be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings, limited to the issue of whether the business pursuits exclusion applies. We conclude that neither the Appellate Court nor the trial court employed the correct standard for determining whether the defendant’s tortious conduct was an occurrence 'arising out of' the business pursuits of the insured and that further factual findings would be necessary to determine whether this exception applies under the correct standard. We further conclude that the plaintiffs cannot prevail on their alternative grounds regarding the other exclusions and public policy as a matter of law. Finally, we conclude that the plaintiffs are not limited to the evidentiary record in the underlying tort action to establish that the business pursuits exclusion barred coverage. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court with direction to remand the case to the trial court for a trial de novo on that issue.")

  • SC19618 Concurrence & Dissent - Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Pasiak