VERMONT MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY v.
JOSEPH S. WALUKIEWICZ et al., SC 18061
Judicial District of New London at Norwich
Homeowner's Insurance; Whether Injury Caused by an Insured While Acting in Self-Defense Falls Within Policy Provision Excluding from Coverage Injury "Expected or Intended" by the Insured; Whether a Subjective Standard Should be Applied when Determining Whether an Insured's Conduct Falls Within the "Expected or Intended" Exclusion and Constitutes an "Accident." Kevin Brown brought a negligence action against Joseph S. Walukiewicz after he pushed or threw Brown down a staircase. Subsequently, Vermont Mutual Insurance Company (Vermont Mutual), which had issued a homeowner's insurance policy to Walukiewicz, brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Walukiewicz in the negligence action. Walukiewicz and Brown were both named as defendants. The policy covered "bodily injury" caused by an "occurrence" and defined "occurrence" to mean an "accident." The policy also excluded coverage for "bodily injury" that is "expected or intended by the insured." Vermont Mutual contended that, since Brown's injuries were the result of an intentional act, and not an "accident," his injuries were not an "occurrence" within the meaning of the policy. It also claimed that Walukiewicz expected or intended to injure Brown, thereby barring coverage under the "expected or intended" exclusion provision. During trial, Vermont Mutual moved to preclude the defendants from claiming that Walukiewicz was acting in self-defense when he injured Brown and from presenting any evidence in support thereof. The trial court granted the motion, ruling that an act of self-defense is an intentional act done to inflict harm on another and, therefore, was not covered under the "expected or intended" exclusion. At the conclusion of the trial, the court instructed the jury that the issues of whether Brown's injuries were "expected or intended" by Walukiewicz and whether Walukiewicz's actions constituted an "accident" must be resolved under an objective reasonable person standard. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Vermont Mutual. On appeal, Brown claims that the trial court improperly concluded that self-defense is not an exception to the policy's "expected or intended" exclusion. Specifically, he claims that the "expected or intended" exclusion cannot be invoked to deny coverage for an injury inflicted in self-defense because a person acting in self-defense is not acting with the intent to harm another, but, instead, is acting with the intent to prevent injury to himself. Additionally, Brown claims that a subjective standard, rather than an objective standard, should be applied when determining whether an insured's conduct (a) falls within the "expected or intended" exclusionary provision, and (b) constitutes an "accident." Brown also asserts a related evidentiary claim that the trial court improperly excluded evidence regarding the extent of Brown's injuries since such evidence was relevant to determining whether Walukiewicz subjectively "expected or intended" to cause injury to Brown.