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Insurance Coverage: Court finds that the individual’s mental state is not a material fact required for the insurance policy’s assault and/or battery coverage to apply

Janis K Malec

This is an insurance coverage dispute stemming from the death of an individual who was shot on the premises of the defendant, Ryan’s Pub, LLC. The defendant is an insured of the plaintiff, Tudor Insurance Company. In the underlying lawsuit, the Administrator of the Estate of the individual killed on the premises asserts claims of negligence/wrongful death, loss of consortium, and recklessness against the defendants, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. The plaintiff argues an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law that its indemnity obligation for the underlying action under the policy is limited to $300,000 because the policy limits coverage for a bodily injury arising out of any one assault and/or battery incident to $300,000 and that the underlying action unequivocally arises out of an assault and/or battery.

The plaintiff issued the defendant a commercial lines policy which provides bodily injury and property damage coverage. The policy also contains an assault and/or battery coverage endorsement which provides $300,000 per occurrence. The court then analyzes whether the plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment as to count one which seeks an order declaring that any available coverage under the policy is limited to the $300,000 limit set forth in the assault and/or battery coverage endorsement of the policy. Here, the parties are not disputing that all of the claims in the underlying action stem from the shooting and killing of a patron at the defendant’s pub. The parties also do not dispute that the policy excludes from general coverage “any claim arising out of an assault and/or battery,” but provides limited coverage of up to $300,000 for each occurrence for “sums the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of any assault and/or battery.”

The dispute between the parties rests entirely on whether there is sufficient evidence in the record to establish an absence of genuine dispute of whether one patron shooting and killing another patron constitutes an “assault and/or battery” under the policy. The defendant asserts that there is a genuine issue of material fact whether the patron acted with the requisite mens rea to establish civil assault and/or battery. The plaintiff argues in response that an assault and battery under Connecticut law may be intentional, reckless, or negligent, and thus Hughes’s state of mind is not a material fact. The Appellate Court of Connecticut has rejected the defendant’s argument for two reasons: (1) in this state, an actionable assault and battery may be one committed willfully or voluntarily, and therefore intentionally; one done under circumstances showing a reckless disregard of consequences; or one committed negligently.

Thus, intentional conduct is not required for an assault and battery and (2) our Supreme Court has held that a nearly identical assault and battery exclusion was not ambiguous and was intended to exclude all assaults and batteries from coverage. The Connecticut Supreme Court has addressed this issue and has found clearly and repeatedly that assault and batter can be committed negligently. Thus, the court rejects the defendant’s argument that the patron’s mental state is a material fact of which a genuine dispute remains. The court finds that the plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment on count one of its complaint. Tudor Ins. Co. v. Ryan’s Pub, LLC, 635 F. Supp. 3d 2 (D. Conn. 2022)