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Alphonso Williams, appealed against a judgment granting the defendant’s request for summary judgment, ANPAC Louisiana Insurance Company (“ANPAC”). The trial court rejected the plaintiff’s claim against ANPAC, and found that the intentional act of exclusion in the insurance excluded coverage for the damage caused by the insured, Christopher Hart.
IN Alphonso B. Williams v. Christopher L. Hart & ABC Insurance Companyno. 54 604-CA, Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit (July 6, 2022), the Court of Appeal watched the video of a battery when Hart without hesitation struck Williams in the face.
On February 2, 2020, Alphonso Williams and Christopher Hart attended a Super Bowl event at a Holiday Inn hotel in Shreveport. At about 7:30 p.m., Hart Williams violently punched him in the face and knocked him down. A surveillance camera recorded the incident.
At the time of the incident, Hart was insured by a homeowner’s policy issued by ANPAC. The insurance contains exemptions from insurance cover for bodily injury ”which is intentionally caused by. . . someone insured, even if the resulting injury or damage is different than expected or intended. This exclusion shall not apply to an intentional act arising out of any insured person’s use of legal force to protect persons or property. “
ANPAC denied Williams’ insurance based on the exclusion.
Williams sued the defendants, Christopher Hart and ANPAC. After taking deposits from Williams and Hart, ANPAC filed a summary judgment claiming that the insurance did not provide coverage because the plaintiff’s damages were caused by the insured’s intentional act.
The trial court upheld ANPAC’s request for a summary judgment based on the language of the policy, the video and applicable law. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of ANPAC and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim against ANPAC.
In summary, the judgment must be announced if the motion, memorandum and documents show that there is no real issue and that the mover is entitled to a judgment according to law.
An insurance is an agreement between the parties and must be interpreted in accordance with the general rules for contract interpretation.
ANPAC submitted the surveillance video to support its position that the insurance did not provide coverage because the plaintiff’s damages were caused by Hart’s intentional act of beating the plaintiff. The video of the incident shows how Hart approaches and then strikes plaintiffs after a brief exchange of words.
Plaintiffs and Hart do not question in their letters that Hart intentionally beat plaintiffs, but argue that their affidavits create a genuine question of material facts as to whether Hart acted in self-defense. Hart testified in his deposit that the plaintiff had encountered him earlier in the evening and verbally insulted him. Hart stated that at the time of the incident, he felt afraid of the plaintiffs because of his previous actions at the party and the existing antagonistic relationship between the two.
The Court of Appeal noted that Hart’s subjective conviction that violence was necessary is only one of two factors that must be proved in order to establish a self-defense claim. When an actor claims self-defense, he must show that all the force used was both reasonable and manifestly necessary to prevent a crime against him.
A person making an emergency defense claim is obliged to show not only that the force used was subjectively manifestly necessary, but also that such force was objectively reasonable in the circumstances. A person who is the attacker cannot claim the right to self-defense unless he withdraws from the conflict in good faith.
The video shows the plaintiff standing in the bar area before the incident when Hart goes directly to the plaintiff. The video shows that they briefly exchanged words and Hart then punched the plaintiffs in the face.
ANPAC determined from the video that Hart intentionally hit the plaintiff after starting the meeting that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In addition, the video shows that the plaintiff did not take or hit Hart before he received a blow. The Court of Appeal concluded that the video evidence supported a finding that Hart was the attacker who could not assert self-defense.
Hart’s use of force was unreasonable given his initiation of the physical confrontation when he could have kept his distance if he was actually afraid of the plaintiffs. Since Hart failed to show that his use of force was objectively reasonable in the circumstances, the plaintiff has not shown that there is a real question of material facts as to whether Hart acted in self-defense.
The district court’s judgment was upheld. The costs of the appeal were half calculated for the appellant, Alphonso Williams, and half for the appellant, Christopher Hart.
Mr Hart was reluctant to take responsibility for his wrongdoing. There was no dispute that he hit Williams in the face. The video made it clear that Williams did nothing to encourage the beating. The insurance clearly and unequivocally excluded intentional acts. The insurer proved that the blow that Hart threw was intentional and out of the question. The parties wasted their time trying to get the insurer to pay and now Mr. Hart discovers that he must pay from his assets whatever judgment Williams receives from the trial court for the battery.
(c) 2022 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his internship to the position of insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance misconduct and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as a lawyer for insurance coverage and claims management and more than 54 years in the insurance industry. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and email@example.com.
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