Parents’ Liability For Son’s Shooting Spree Is Covered Under Homeowners’ Policy

One of the most astonishing things about insurance law to many people is that injured parties frequently file lawsuits claiming a vicious criminal negligently injured them. After all, it seems obvious to most people that the attack was intentional, which is why it was a crime in the first place. However, insurance does not cover liability for intentional hurting someone, thus the claim of negligence. Before anyone is tempted to think the claims of the victims are deceptive, in that they are obviously fine-tuned to try to implicate insurance coverage, remember that these people did not ask to be attacked or hurt and are often doing their best to put their lives back together.
That being said, insurance contracts are not built on compassion for third parties but rather on a defined obligation between insurer and insured as stated in the policy. In Donegal Mutual Ins. Co. v. Bauhammers, 2006 Wl 362537 (Pa.Super. February 17, 2006), the question was whether a homeowners’ policy and an umbrella policy covered liabilities of the parents of a man, Richard Bauhammers, who went on a shooting spree in April 2000, killing five people in Scott Township, Pennsylvania, and seriously injuring another. The trial court ruled the primary policy covered the parents’ liabilities, but the excess policy did not. The appeals court agreed.

The primary policy covered accidents that caused bodily injured within the policy period. From the standpoint of the shooter, the shooting were not accidental, the court said, but were accidental from the standpoint of the parents, who faced claims that their negligence in dealing with their son was a precursor to his rampage. However, the umbrella policy contained an exclusion for criminal acts that were intended by any insured. The son was defined as an insured because he was a relative living in the household. Therefore, no coverage was available under the excess policy. Neither policy indemnified the son.

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