Summary Judgment to Insurance Company on Claim for Indemnification in Massachusetts Case Involving Injuries from Altercation Held Erroneous

When it comes to the ultimate outcome of a Cape Cod personal injury case, the availability of liability insurance is one of the most important factors to be considered. Assuming that there is a policy of insurance that covers the occurrence at issue, another important consideration is the policy limits of such coverage.

In the absence of adequate liability insurance, the plaintiff’s options for recovering a judgment against the defendant are limited. While the plaintiff may have a right to execute the judgment against any property owned by the defendant and/or any wages that he or she earns in the future, it may take a very, very long time to satisfy a judgment – if it is ever satisfied.

Of course these issues are meaningless if the plaintiff is unable to prove his or her case in court, so it is important that someone who has suffered personal injuries due to another person’s careless or reckless conduct consult an attorney who can help him or her build a case that will convince the jury of his or her right to money damages. Without evidence that preponderates in the plaintiff’s favor, the defendant’s liability insurance is irrelevant.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who alleged that he was injured when he and the defendant had a disagreement in a public place. According to the plaintiff, the defendant shoved him, causing him to fall and permanently injury his arm. According to the defendant’s version of the altercation, the accident happened because the plaintiff raised his phone in front of the defendant’s face, causing him to instinctively push the device away, which in turn caused the plaintiff to stumble and fall.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, asserting claims for negligence, reckless indifference, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery. The defendant’s homeowners insurance company defended the claim under a reservation of rights, citing a coverage exclusion for intentional acts. The plaintiff and defendant settled their case, with the defendant agreeing to pay the plaintiff $750,000, $500,000 of which the defendant believed his insurance company would pay. The insurance company refused to pay this amount and sought a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to indemnify the defendant for the funds that he had paid out to the plaintiff in regard to his personal injury claim. The trial court granted summary judgment to the insurance company.

Decision of the Reviewing Tribunal

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts reversed and remanded, holding that, while the term “physical abuse,” as used in the defendant’s homeowners insurance policy, was ambiguous, a reasonable insured could have interpreted the term as providing coverage for the plaintiff’s negligence claim against the defendant. Thus, the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to the insurance company as to its duty to indemnify the defendant was held to be in error.

As to the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the insurance company as to a cross-claim by the defendant to the effect that the insurance company had violated Massachusetts General Laws chs. 93A and 176D during its handling of the underlying claim between the plaintiff and the defendant, however, the reviewing court found no error and, accordingly, affirmed that part of the trial court’s judgment.

To Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer in Cape Cod

Injuries caused by others’ negligence or intentional misconduct can be devastating to the victim. Medical bills can quickly pile up, and additional care may be required in the years to come. The accident victim will likely be off work due to his or her injuries, and, in some cases, he or she may never be able to work again. Those who have been hurt in situations in which an individual, business, or governmental entity has caused serious personal injures may be entitled to money damages for these and other losses, including monetary compensation for pain and suffering. To schedule a consultation about your Cape Cod personal injury case, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III today at 888-262-6664 and set up an appointment.

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