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Westfield Insurance Co. v. Holland

December 19, 2008

WESTFIELD INSURANCE COMPANY AND OLD GUARD INSURANCE COMPANY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROBERT HOLLAND AND LYNDA BAIO AND DAVID FIRMSTONE, AS CO-EXECUTORS OF THE ESTATE OF HELEN PRIESTER DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckwalter, S. J.

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Westfield Insurance Company and Old Guard Insurance Company and the Response in Opposition of Defendants Robert Holland and Lynda Baio and David Firmstone, as Co-Executors of the Estate of Helen Priester. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This Motion for Summary Judgment arises out of a claim for insurance coverage under policies issued to Robert Holland by Westfield Insurance Company and Old Guard Insurance Company (collectively "Westfield"). On December 27, 2007, Westfield filed the instant Declaratory Judgment Complaint against Holland and Lynda Baio and David Firmstone, as Co-executors of the Estate of Helen Priester, seeking a declaration that Westfield has no obligation to defend or indemnify Holland in the underlying litigation filed by the Estate in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, against Holland and Doylestown Hospital (the "Priester Litigation"). While Westfield afforded a defense to Holland in the Priester litigation subject to a reservation of rights to deny coverage, Westfield filed this Motion on the basis that coverage was not triggered under any applicable Westfield policy.

A. History of the Priester Litigation

Robert Holland was employed by Doylestown Hospital d/b/a/ Pine Run Community (the "Hospital") as the head groundskeeper. (Pls.' Compl. ¶ 7.) On May 5, 2006, Holland was found by Hospital staff sexually molesting, assaulting, and battering Helen Priester. (Id. ¶ 10.) At the time of the assault, Priester was a 92-year-old woman, wheelchair bound, who suffered from dementia. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that Holland entered Priester's room, shut the door, removed her alarm bracelet, and carried her from her wheelchair to a couch in her room, where he proceeded to sexually assault her. (Pls.' Br. in Supp. of Westfield Ins. Co.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A ¶¶ 17-18.) Plaintiff argues that because of Priester's mental incapacity and inability to verbalize, she could not have given consent to Holland for the acts perpetrated by him. (Id. ¶ 13.) Holland details that for several years before May 5, 2006, he and Helen Priester enjoyed a friendship that involved mutual hugging, kissing, and caressing. (Def. Holland's Verification in Derogation of Pls.' Mots. for Summ. J. ¶¶ 1-2.) He recounts that on May 5, 2006, he visited Priester in Pine Run's Health Center and she expressed happiness to see him and did not exhibit objective signs of suffering mental disability. (Id. ¶ 3.) At the time of the visit, he and Priester kissed and caressed each other and she did nothing to indicate that she was not consenting. (Id. ¶ 4.) Holland claims that Priester only became emotional, upset, and embarrassed when Hospital staff entered her room and acted as though she and Holland were engaging in inappropriate conduct. (Id. ¶ 5.)

On Dec 4, 2006, a case captioned Commonwealth v. Holland, CR-0000311-06, Holland pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assault, institutional sexual assault, and three counts of indecent assault on a person who is incapable of giving consent. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Priester filed a civil suit against Holland in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. Counts I and II of the Priester complaint in the underlying litigation are directed against Holland. Count I avers that Holland was negligent in that he mistakenly and unreasonably believed that Priester gave her consent to his actions, despite her incapacity to do so. (Pls.' Br. Supp. Westfield Ins. Co.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A ¶ 23.) Count II avers that Holland committed intentional, malicious, willful, outrageous, excessive, and reckless assault and battery on Priester on May 5, 2006, and on numerous prior occasions failed to regard the rights, safety, and position of Priester. (Id. ¶ 27.) As a result of the aforementioned allegations in the Priester Complaint, the Estate seeks compensatory damages from Holland. (Id. ¶ 44.)

In response to the Priester complaint, Holland filed an answer with new matter cross-claim. (Id., Ex. B.) In his pleading, Holland denied all allegations in the underlying complaint and contended that he had a relationship with Priester. (Id.) Holland requested defense and indemnity under the policies of insurance issued by Westfield to Holland for the policy period of October 19, 2005, through October 19, 2006.

B. The Westfield Policies

Westfield issued a primary farm policy to Holland, with a policy period running from October 19, 2005, through October 19, 2006. (Statement of Material Facts Supp. Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. K.) The farm package policy includes farm liability coverage, containing an agreement under Coverage-H entitled, "Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability" providing, in part:

a. We will pay those sums that the "insured" becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of "bodily injury" or "property damage" to which this insurance applies. We will have the right and duty to defend the "insured" against any "suit" seeking those damages. However, we will have no duty to defend the "insured" against any "suit" seeking damages for "bodily injury" or "property damage" to which this insurance does not apply...

b. This insurance applies to "bodily injury" and "property damages" only if:

(1) the "bodily injury" or "property damage" is caused by an "occurrence..."

(Id.) The policy defines "bodily injury" as "bodily injury, sickness, or disease sustained by a person, and includes death resulting from any of these at any time period." (Id.) The farm liability coverage form defines "occurrence" as "an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions." (Id.)

In the same section, under the sub-heading "Exclusions" provides:

This insurance does not apply to...Sexual Molestation, Corporal Punishment, or Physical or Mental Abuse.

"Bodily injury" or "property damage" arising out of sexual molestation, corporal punishment, or physical or mental abuse.

(Id.)

Westfield also issued a Commercial Umbrella insurance policy to Robert and Barbara Holland with a policy period running from October 19, 2005, to October 19, 2006. (Id., Ex. L.) The limit of liability was $1,000,000 per occurrence and the declaration page listed the business ...


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