Blacksburg "Beer Pong" game fight; Virginia Supreme Court rules -insurance coverage for fractured skull injury

that an insurance company owes a defense for the Virginia Tech student who was sued over injuries he caused in this fight. Nationwide Insurance had a duty to defend Copp, the court ruled, because its umbrella policy contained language providing coverage for bodily injury caused by an insured “trying to protect person or property.” The “self-defense” exception required looking beyond the “eight corners” of the policy and the Complaint, the court held.

Nationwide Insurance had won at the trial level, getting the Circuit Court to rule that it owed no duty to defend Copp in the lawsuit. The homeowner’s policy and the umbrella policy excluded liability for intentional acts causing personal injury, but the umbrella policy contained an exception: the exclusion “does not apply to bodily injury or property damage caused by an insured trying to protect person or property.”

In prior decisions, the court required review of only the “four corners” of the complaint and the “four corners” of the policy to decide if an insurer has a duty to defend and indemnify its insured. The analysis of both documents was referred to as the “eight corners rule.” The unusual “self-defense” exception in the umbrella policy, however, required consideration of Copp’s evidence, the Supreme Court held in an opinion authored by Senior Justice Harry L. Carrico. “[I]t requires consideration of an insured’s claim that he or she caused bodily injury or property damage trying to protect person or property in evaluating whether there is a duty to defend in a given case,” Carrico wrote. The case citation is: Copp v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, No. 090345, (April 15, 2010); appealed from Montgomery County Circuit Court (Judge Turk presiding).

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