Ohio Supreme Court Spotlight: Why Policy Exclusions Matter

The Ohio Supreme Court stopped a $1 million payday for a resident injured during an attack in an adult residential care facility.

The justices unanimously found that a United Specialty Insurance Company commercial general liability policy covering the Brown County Care Center does not cover bodily injury arising from assault or battery.

Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy wrote for the court “When it comes to contracts, the intent of the parties, as embodied in the plain and ordinary language of the contract, is paramount,” She continued “If parties enter into an insurance contract that explicitly excludes coverage for injuries arising from assault or battery, courts should not interpret the contract so as to provide such coverage. Courts must refrain from inserting exceptions into contracts where they do not exist.”

The assault occurred when Mr. Krewina was living at the Brown County Care Center, when another resident Mr. Doherty attacked him with a knife, causing multiple injuries to Mr. Krewina’s neck and back. Mr. Doherty was indicted for felonious assault along with other crimes. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and the trial court found him not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mr. Krewina filed a civil lawsuit against Doherty and the care center. The center asked USI, to provide a legal defense and to pay any judgment issued against it. USI denied the request, explaining that under the policy, bodily injuries arising out of any assault or battery were specifically excluded in the policy.

A Supreme Court majority agreed with the carrier, they found that a commercial general liability policy covering the Brown County Care Center precludes coverage of the judgment because a provision that excludes coverage for “bodily injury arising from assault or battery” applies.

Chief Justice Kennedy wrote “What happened to Krewina is unfortunate, but it is the language of the commercial general-liability insurance policy, not our sympathy, that carries the weight in this case,” This strict interpretation highlights the importance of having clear exclusions and definitions in policies.

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to John Wells at john@ohioinsuranceagents.com.

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