In November 2014, Shakeva Soniat and Serena Tribbit ate drinks at a bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans called Funky 544. Ronesha Kelly, who at age 19 was too young to be served alcohol , had drunk there. She started arguing with the two women and stabbed them both. I Funky 544, L.L.C. v. Houston Specialty Insurance Company, No. 21-30310, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit (October 22, 2021). They and Funky 544 sued Funky's insurer after a verdict was handed down against the Bar Association.
Funky 544, L.L.C. appealed the district court's decision that its insurer, the Houston Specialty Insurance Company, had no obligation to defend it against litigation that arose after a stabbing in its bar.
In January 2015, Soniat and Tribbit Funky 544 sued ) in the state court of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, and argued that their damages were due to Funky 544's negligence. The bar owner had a commercial general liability insurance with the Houston Specialty Insurance Company. In July 2015, five months after Funky 544 notified it of the lawsuit, Houston Specialty declined coverage.
Eventually, due to Funky's negligence, the state court awarded the two plaintiffs nearly $ 580,000 for pain and suffering and nearly $ 55,000. for medical expenses. Funky 544 sued Houston Specialty, claiming a breach of the insurer's contractual and statutory obligations. Houston Specialty requested a summary assessment of these claims and argued for an exception to the policy applied to Soniat and Tribbit's claims. This exception applies to damage caused by the use of firearms or other weapons:
The following is added to the Exclusion Section of COMMERCIAL GENERAL LIABILITY FORM AND THE COVER LIABILITY FORM:  This does not apply to "Insurance" and "advertising damage", "damage" or medical costs incurred as a result of firearms or weapons or as a result of any act or omission in connection with the prevention or suppression of firearms or weapons, including failure to warn, train or monitor, whether is caused by or on the initiative or instruction of the insured, his employees, protectors or any other person or failure to provide assistance and / or inform rescue personnel.
the policy defines "weapons" as "instruments of an offensive or defensive nature and includes but are not limited to batons, bows or crossbows, arrows, knives, mace, pistols, t asers or sword. "
The district court concluded that this exclusion is applied and a summary judgment is granted.
In Louisiana, an insurer must provide a defense whenever the submissions against the insured reveal a possibility of liability under the insurance. Insurance is interpreted according to its simple, common and generally prevailing meaning, unless the words have acquired a technical meaning. It is only where an insurance policy is unequivocally interpreted to exclude coverage that an insurer does not have an obligation to defend. that minors drink. Yet part of each of Soniat's and Tribbit's claims that Funky 544's negligence caused them to be injured by a knife.
An exception covering bodily injury resulting from assault and violence applies unless the injuries are separate and distinct from the damage. physical commotion. The term in this exception to derive from the use of weapons unequivocally presupposes that for coverage, an injury must be completely different from those relating to the use of weapons.
A helpful state court statement involved a lawsuit against a bar in Louisiana and its insurers after the plaintiff was stabbed by another protector. Foquet v. Daiquiris & Creams of Mandeville, LLC 49 So.3d 44, 45-46 (La. Ct. App. 2010).
The insurer's judgment was determined on the basis of an exclusion policy for "& "Body injury",. . . derived from or derived from “the use of a weapon. Since the only injuries were related to the stabbing, the allegations were based on manifestly excluded behavior.
Here, every negligence claim in the lawsuit in the state court stemmed from the stabbing. The policy's weapon exclusion therefore applies.
Funky 544 got into trouble because they served a less alcoholic beverage just to get the minor stabbed two customers at Funky 544. The language of the policy was clear, obvious and easy to understand by anyone with a fourth grade training. A knife is defined by the policy as a weapon and damage caused by a weapon is excluded. A clear and unequivocal exclusion must be enforced and even if the two plaintiffs were seriously injured, their damages were foreseen and excluded because there was a risk of liability that no insurer would be willing to take.
© 2021 – Barry Zalma
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his internship to the position of insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders.
He also acts as an arbitrator. insurance-related disputes. 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.
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