It is axiomatic that bad facts often make interesting teams. The fifth circle, which was met by horrible facts about wrong arrest, forced confessions and erroneous beliefs and then serious injuries and illness while being imprisoned for a collective 83 years, worked to find coverage based on insurance forms to be interpreted.
In Traveler's Compensation Company; Traveler Replacement Company America; United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company; St. Paul Fire; Marine Insurance Company v. Ethel Mitchell, Executrix of the Estate of Phillip Bivens; The Estate of Larry Ruffin; Estate of Bobby Ray Dixon; Laturas Smith; Carrie Strong v. Scottsdale Insurance Company No. 17-60291, United States Appeal Court for the Fifth Circle (May 29, 201
After that DNA – evidence exhorted Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon and Larry Ruffin, who spent a collective 83-year jail for rape and murder of a woman in Forrest County, left their real estate a civil law law suit against the county. The fifth circle was asked to determine whether the county's political responsibility policy requires the insurance companies to defend the civil rights. The three were convicted on the basis of confessions that were drawn and evidence made against them. They were innocent.
Facts were horrendous. The wrongly convicted and injured were freed from DNA evidence, but Ruffin had died in prison while Dixon and Bivens had developed diseases that did not kill them long after they had the freedom they were always entitled to.
The answer turns on whether the policy is triggered when damage occurs during the insurance period, even if the erroneous acts that caused the damage occurred before the policy period. The court held it an obligation to defend.
After the rapists Forrest County and the Hattiesburg officers "hit, beat, kicked, beat and hit the ass and death threats against Larry Ruffin, demanded that he acknowledge the crime." It took seven hours to secure his confession even though the victim's young son had told the police that there was only a perpetrator who arrested Bobby Ray Dixon and Phillip Bivens who, as they did, abused and threatened the death penalty, confessed, Ruffin and Bivens.
All three have life sentences. In prison, they were victims of many attacks from other prisoners. Dixon contacted the innocence project in 2008, and the project received DNA testing of sperm from the victim's rape rate. It matched the DNA profile of Andrew Harris, who then earned a lifetime of another rape committed just after rape and murder that Bivens, Dixon and Ruffin were imprisoned.
Ruffin had been killed by an electric shock eight years before being freed. Dixon died shortly after he was released on medical parole but five weeks before he was officially cleared. Bivens lived only three years as a free man.
The court rejected the obligation to defend a number of insurance companies with current policies during the prison period. But it ruled that travelers and Scottsdale are required to defend themselves. The two insurers' appeal.
Mississippi requires that insurance be interpreted "exactly as written" as long as they are "clear and unambiguous". If the terms of the policy are ambiguous or doubtful, we interpret them most favorably to the insured and the insurer.
Mississippi applies the so-called eight-corner rule to determine whether an insurance company is obliged to defend a claim against its insured. That is, the issue is solved by comparing the four corners of the policy with the four corners of the complaints. If the complaint specifies a claim that is within or undoubtedly within the scope of the coverage provided by the policy, the insurer must defend.
The residual policy provided Forrest County and its law enforcement officials from February 2005 through February 2011. Travelers do not doubt that Bivens and Dixon's injuries were caused by illegal acts or that some of the illegal acts were committed by Forrest County officials who participates in law enforcement activities. The question is whether the injuries they suffered between 2005 and 2011 triggered an obligation to defend, even if the erroneous causes occurred decades earlier.
The Traveler Policy provides coverage for "damage or damage it … happens when this Agreement is in effect." The time-limited requirement applies only to the damage. The other two requirements for coverage – that the damage was due to the insured's "law enforcement" and "caused by an illegal act committed during the execution of law enforcement actions" – have no time limit. Under the clear terms of the policy, the traveler must defend all claims for which damaged injuries occurred between 2005 and 2011, irrespective of when the wrong cause occurred.
The initiation of legal process predicted the policy of travelers for decades, so the policy does not cover damage to a claim of false employment or imprisonment. However, unlike personal injury coverage, whose focus is the list of covered causal diseases, body damage coverage is not tied to a list of causal diseases. The traveler's policy includes bodily injury in physical, mental and emotional harm, it is defined by the resulting injury, not the cause. Since the property claims that Bivens and Dixon suffered many independent injuries between 2005 and 2011, regardless of Forrest County's allegedly erroneous acts, Bivens and Dixon had been free men and not suffered these physical and mental damage to the court when they decided to defend themselves. that claims are correct. Since the complaint claims that several separate injuries occur during the insurance period, the traveler has an obligation to defend himself according to the rules at eight corners.
The Scottsdale policy, which gave Forrest County coverage of law enforcement from November 1985 to November 1986. Scottsdale's policy is ambiguous and does not require a "wrong act" to occur during the policy. But it requires that covered injuries depend on an "occurrence". Although Scottsdale's duty of defense was not triggered by the ongoing prison, it was triggered by the various bodily injuries of Bivens, Dixon, and Ruffin who suffered as a result of the county's illegal acts framing them.
In erroneous beliefs, the erroneous act is the one that causes the erroneous belief; In this way, action-based policies are usually exercised at or around the time of conviction. However, it has no bearing on claims-based policies like Travelers & # 39; and Scottsdale.
The lead of a new injury, provided it is caused by a covered act that triggers bodily injury, as long as the policy defines bodily injury without reference to the damage that caused it.
In this case, there were discrete bodily injuries beyond the actual prison injury. As the property invokes separate injuries, not just a continuous injury that begins with imprisonment and ends with liberation and release, the Mississippi law does not require the court to transport in the policy language, the only triggering rule Traveler and Scottsdale advocated. Their policies are not triggered by illegal acts, but by injuries.
Insurance policy is a contract, and as such, they must be enforced according to their regulations. The provisions of the travelers and the Scottsdale policy cover bodily injury that occurred during the insurance period.
Since the country's complaint claimed these damages during relevant time periods, both insurance companies had an obligation to defend Forrest County and its officers.
The insurance companies, raising their own petard, wrote policies that triggered coverage based on the damage that occurred rather than on the damage. Since the rules for eight corners require that the decision on coverage be based on allegations of the costume, when the county council's alleged damage when travelers and Scottsdale insured the police offices, they agreed to cover liability for injuries that occurred in the prison, even if injuries occurred decades before the policy came into force. The lesson learned: Write insurance carefully.
© 2019 – Barry Zalma
This article and all the blog posts on this site, melt and summarize issues published by the courts of the various states and the United States. The court decisions have been modified from the actual language of the court decisions, condensed to facilitate reading and convey the author's views in each individual case.
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance management, bad faith assurance, and insurance fraud nearly equal for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance-related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance cover and law firm and more than 50 years in the insurance industry. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual liability magazine / ACE Legend Award.
Over the past 51 years, Barry Zalma has put his life on insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other materials to enable insurers and their casualties to become insurance managers.
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