Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State Farm Fire and Casualty Company v. James Decoster and Beverly Diane Rydman

May 17, 2013

STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, APPELLANT
v.
JAMES DECOSTER AND BEVERLY DIANE RYDMAN, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order Entered April 9, 2012, In the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, Civil Division, at No. 11-3770 Civil.

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

BEFORE: SHOGAN, LAZARUS and OTT, JJ.

OPINION BY SHOGAN, J.:

In this declaratory judgment action, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") appeals from the trial court's April 9, 2012 order denying State Farm's motion for summary judgment and granting Appellees', James DeCoster ("DeCoster") and Beverly Diane Rydman's ("Rydman"), motions for summary judgment with respect to State Farm's duty to defend and indemnify DeCoster in a third-party action initiated by Rydman. On appeal, we are asked to decide, inter alia, whether the intentional injury exclusion of a liability policy applies when an intoxicated homeowner intentionally injures a guest who he mistakes as an intruder.

We hold that the application of the intentional injury exclusion of a liability policy, such as the one at issue here, depends on whether the insured's conduct was intentionally wrongful under tort law. Under the specific facts of this case, we conclude that State Farm currently has a duty to defend but that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the insured homeowner's conduct was intentionally wrongful under applicable tort law.

Thus, the court's decision as to indemnification is premature at this juncture.

Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

The trial court set forth the relevant factual and procedural history as follows:

The facts were stipulated by the parties and are set forth at length in the Stipulation of Facts, filed of record on August 25, 2011. Those material to the question presented in the instant Motions are in substance as follows:

On August 14, 2008, Defendant Diane Rydman and Defendant James DeCoster had been together at a bar known as Fast Eddie's on High Street in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Rydman and DeCoster had lived within blocks of the bar where they had met each other, and had slept together once before. After leaving the bar, the two went to DeCoster's home at 161 West Louther Street and continued to drink alcohol. In the early morning hours, and while DeCoster was going to the bathroom, Rydman went outside DeCoster's home to smoke a cigarette. After approximately ten minutes, Rydman came back into the home and, upon her re-entry, DeCoster mistakenly believed that an intruder had broken into his home. DeCoster grabbed a handgun, and, when he saw Rydman, he mistook her for a small male intruder. At the time, DeCoster was not wearing his eyeglasses, and he began to chase after Rydman believing he was chasing an intruder. DeCoster pointed a handgun and shot Rydman in the abdomen. Of DeCoster's intent as he shot Rydman, the Stipulation of Facts provides as follows: "Despite being intoxicated, DeCoster intended to shoot who he believed to be a small male intruder. Mr. DeCoster pulled the trigger on purpose intending to shoot who he believed to be a small male intruder. In fact, the victim was Diane Rydman." (Stipulation of Facts,

¶ (i)). DeCoster called the police, and over the telephone he stated, "You are damn right I shot him. Hurry up and get over here." (Stipulation of Facts,

¶ (n)). Upon their arrival, DeCoster stated to the police, "Over here, I shot him. He is in here." (Stipulation of Facts,

¶ (o)). DeCoster was intoxicated and had a blood alcohol of 0.187 as tested by the police shortly after the shooting.

DeCoster was charged and found guilty of the offense of aggravated assault by intentionally or knowingly causing to attempt [sic] injury to another with a deadly weapon. The conviction was overturned on appeal, and he subsequently accepted a plea in lieu of re-trial. DeCoster pled guilty to aggravated assault, and was sentenced to time served.

At the time of the shooting, DeCoster was insured under a homeowners insurance policy issued by Plaintiff State Farm. The insurance policy provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

If a claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which this coverage applies, caused by an occurrence, we will

1. pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which the insured is legally liable; and

2. provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice. We may make any investigation and settle any claim or suit that we decide is appropriate. Our obligation to defend any claim or suit ends when the amount we pay for damages, to effect settlement or satisfy a judgment resulting from the occurrence, equals our limit of liability.

(Complaint, Ex. A, Homeowners Insurance Policy) (emphasis original).

Furthermore, the policy of insurance defined the term "occurrence" as follows:

when used in Section II of this policy, means an accident, including exposure to conditions, which results in:

a. bodily injury; or

b. property damage;

during the policy period. Repeated or continuous exposure to the same general conditions is considered to be one occurrence.

(Complaint, Ex. A, Homeowners Insurance Policy) (emphasis original).

The policy also contained the following relevant ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.