South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Intentional Tort Still Accident from Perspective of Insured Victim
Description New Hampshire high court held that when a driver intentionally hit and injured a party who was on foot, the injured party could recover for his injuries under the uninsured motorist section of his auto insurance policy.
Topic Insurance
Key Words Uninsured Motorist; Accident; Tort; Coverage; Interpretation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Pitman, a police officer, worked a paid detail at a nightclub. He kept Looney from entering the club. Looney threw a concrete block through the front window of the club and ran to his car. Pitman, thinking Looney to be intoxicated, tried to stop him from driving away, but Looney took off and hit Pitman, causing him serious injuries. Pitman sought coverage for his injuries under the uninsured motorist coverage portion of his auto insurance policy. It states that insurer will pay "all sums which the insured ... shall be legally entitled to recover as damages from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of bodily injury sustained by the insured, caused by accident…." Insurer contended that the incident was not an automobile accident but an intentional tort. The trial court held for the insurer; Pitman appealed.

Reversed. "Where an insurance policy's language is reasonably susceptible of more than one interpretation ... we construe the ambiguity against the insurer and in favor of coverage in order to honor the reasonable expectation of the policyholder." The term "accident" is to be viewed from the perspective of the insured victim, not from the perspective of the tort-feasor. Hence, even though the injuries were intentionally inflicted by Looney, Pitman is due coverage under his policy for the injuries he sustained.

Citation State Farm Mutual Insurance Co. v. Pitman, --- A.2d --- (2002 WL 31545958, Sup. Ct., N.H., 2002)

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