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Whether Harm Caused By An Insured Was An “Accident” For Purposes Of Coverage Under A Homeowner’s Insurance Policy Must Be Viewed From The Insured’s Perspective

December 14th, 2018

In State Farm v. Motta, E.D. PA, (December 11, 2018), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that the issue of whether harm caused by the insured was an “accident” for purposes of coverage under a homeowner’s insurance policy must be viewed from the insured’s perspective.

In this case, a teenage girl committed suicide as a result of cyberbullying by the teenage son of a State Farm insured under its homeowner’s policy.  State Farm was asked to provide a defense under its policy, but the policy only provided coverage if the harm was caused by an “accident.”  State Farm argued that the court must focus on the act itself, and not the chain of consequences flowing from it. Applying this focus, State Farm argued that its insured’s son’s act of cyberbullying was intentional, and not an “accident.”  The homeowner, on the other hand, argued that the court must focus on whether its insured could have reasonably foreseen the resulting injury.  Applying this focus, the homeowner argued that the victim’s death by suicide was an extraordinary intervening event unforeseeable to their son.  The court held that the issue must be resolved from the perspective of the insured.  From the insured’s perspective, while he may have intended to insult the victim and possibly cause her emotional distress, the victim’s death from suicide was an “accident.”

Opinion by Kearny, J.

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