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Hardly a day goes by without a news story of someone being bullied—children,
teenagers,and even adults both in and away from the workplace. Last week a
situation was reported locally that involved a 15-year-old girl not only verbally
bullying another teen but also physically beating her up. The bully even posted
a video of the beating on YouTube. The next day the father of the assailant
apologized publicly for his daughter's action, reportedly saying he was
"appalled that it was my child that did this." 

   Apologies aside, it is likely that
   the next  chapter in this drama
  will be the parents   of the victim
  suing the alleged bully and   her
  family. Which brings us, of
  course,   to the question of
  whether a Homeowners  policy
  would defend a lawsuit against
  a child who is accused of
  bullying others   and her parents.

  In this situation (assuming that
  the family   has a standard
Homeowners policy and   lives in the same household), the daughter and her
parents would be considered "insured's" under the policy. The personal-liability
and medical-payments sections of the standard Homeowners form provide
coverage for "bodily injury" (the injuries from the beating) caused by the
occurrence (the beating). Some would say that an occurrence must be
accidental—and beating someone up is not accidental. But can an argument be
made that the teen did not intend to injure the other girl? Some courts have held
that an injury that is not expected or intended, even though resulting from
intentional action, is not excluded by the intentional acts exclusion. Medical
payments also are available for bodily injury caused by the actions of an insured.

So far, so good, except for the question of whether any bullying is accidental.
There also are a number of other questions about potential defense and coverage
once we get past these preliminaries.

The standard Homeowners form states that "bodily injury" means "bodily harm,
sickness or disease..."  Later there is an exclusion for bodily injury arising out of,
among other things, "physical or mental abuse." So the mental abuse of bullying
would be excluded, and the physical beating also could be if it were considered to
be physical abuse. In addition, Exclusion E.1. voids coverage for bodily injury that
is expected or intended from "an" insured—not "the" insured. Courts often have
interpreted exclusions for acts of an insured to preclude coverage for any insured.
If the parents of the teen bully in our example are sued for the injuries she inflicted,
their Homeowners policy likely would not be triggered for any family members
because of the breadth of the an insured wording.

Based on all of this, I don't believe a Homeowners policy would protect the teen
or her parents. Should it? Societal mores aside, I imagine the parents of this teen
will hope theirs at least pays for defense costs when the inevitable lawsuit arrives.
What would you tell your insured in this situation? 

Call Huff Insurance for a quick protection review, Protecting families since 1948!


Story by:Diana Reitz,  FC&S Online



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