Supreme Court of California

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Minkler v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., S174016

In a dispute over a homeowner's insurance coverage, arising from plaintiff's suit against a mother and her son for being sexually molested by the son in their home, the court rules that an exclusion of coverage for the intentional acts of "an insured," read in conjunction with a severability or "separate insurance" clause like the one at issue in this case, creates an ambiguity which must be construed in favor of coverage that a lay policyholder would reasonably expect. Here, a lay insured would reasonably anticipate that under a policy containing such a clause, each insured's coverage would be analyzed separately, so that the intentional act of one insured would not, in and of itself, bar liability coverage of another insured for the latter's independent act that did not come within the terms of the exclusion. Therefore, the homeowner was not precluded form coverage for any personal role she played in her son's molestations of plaintiff merely because the son's conduct fell within the exclusion for intentional acts.

Appellate Information

  • Decided 06/17/2010
  • Published 06/17/2010

Judges

  • BAXTER, J.

Court

  • Supreme Court of California

Counsel

  • For Appellant:
  • Attorneys for Appellant:, Shernoff Bidart Darras Echeverria, Shernoff Bidart Echeverria, Michael J. Bidart, Ricardo Echeverria; ‚ÄČThe Ehrlich Law Firm and Jeffrey Isaac Ehrlich for Plaintiff and Appellant., Steven W. Murray as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.

  • For Appellees:
  • Attorneys for Respondent:, Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, Christina J. Imre, Gregory Halliday and William Burger for Defendant and Respondent., Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith and Raul L. Martinez for American Insurance Association, Pacific Association of Domestic Insurance Companies and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.