Finding that Shooting Was Not an “Accident,” Court Holds that Insurance Policy Did Not Cover Judgment against Insured

April 30, 2013 | Insurance Coverage

A federal district court has ruled that a shooting that formed the basis of a state court judgment was not an “accident,” and therefore was not an “occurrence,” for purposes of determining coverage under two homeowner’s insurance policies.  

The Case 

Alexander Yin sued Andrew Pira and his father Richard, alleging that Andrew Pira and some unknown other individuals had “knowingly and maliciously fired a handgun” at him “several times, causing a bullet to strike” him. A jury found Andrew Pira liable for intentional battery and negligence and Richard Pira liable for negligence (for failing to exercise reasonable care to prevent his son’s conduct or take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to others) and statutorily liable for his son’s willful misconduct toward Yin. The court then found the Piras jointly and severally liable for damages of $174,969.92; Andrew Pira severally liable for damages of $591,000 and for $100,000 in punitive damages; and Richard Pira severally liable for damages of $394,000. 

Yin then asked Allstate to satisfy the judgment under two homeowner’s policies it had issued, but Allstate declined to do so. Allstate then sued the Piras and Yin, and moved for summary judgment. 

The Court’s Decision 

After first deciding that Richard Pira was not an “insured person” under the policies because he was not a resident of a named insured’s household, the court examined whether the claims against Andrew Pira were covered. It ruled that they were not. 

The court found that Andrew Pira “planned to have Yin shot to escape paying his gambling debt.” Therefore, it reasoned, the events underlying the state court judgment were not an “accident” or an “occurrence” for purposes of determining coverage under the homeowner’s policies. 

Accordingly, the court granted Allstate’s motion for summary judgment as to the duty to indemnify the Piras. 

The case is Allstate Ins. Co. v. Pira, No. C 11-3511 CW (N.D. Calif. Apr. 19, 2013).

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