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Huguely insurance litigation ends

BridgeTower Media Newswires//January 9, 2020

Huguely insurance litigation ends

BridgeTower Media Newswires//January 9, 2020

BALTIMORE — A federal judge has ruled that State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. has no duty to pay damages in civil court for the man convicted of killing University of Virginia student Yeardley Love, potentially ending more than six years of litigation over the coverage issue.

George Huguely V, Love’s ex-boyfriend, was convicted of second-degree murder for her 2010 death. The Love family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court in 2012 and later withdrew and refiled the case in 2018. The case is set for trial in November.

While the case has been pending in state court, Huguely has been in litigation with two insurance companies, State Farm and Chartis Property Casualty Co., over whether the homeowner’s insurance policies held by his stepfather, a Maryland resident, require the companies to defend and indemnify him in the wrongful death lawsuit. Both companies filed complaints for declaratory judgment in Maryland U.S. District Court in 2013 and moved for summary judgment.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow ruled in 2017 that Chartis had no duty to Huguely because the policy, worth $6 million, specifically denied coverage for damages resulting from criminal acts. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling.

At the same time, Chasanow denied summary judgment to State Farm because its policy, worth $300,000, excluded injuries “expected or intended by the insured”; the original lawsuit against Huguely alleged negligence as well as intentional torts.

The lawsuit that was re-filed in 2018 removed negligence and gross negligence claims and State Farm filed an amended complaint and moved for summary judgment in the federal case, asking Chasanow to find that its policy can now be found to exclude coverage because the lawsuit alleged only intentional acts.

Chasanow agreed Jan. 7, ruling that as a result of the “narrowing of the civil case” to a claim of assault and battery, “the coverage analysis is clearer and simpler.”

“The assault and battery claim in this case alleges an intentional tort and cannot constitute an ‘accident’ giving rise to a duty to defend or to indemnify,” Chasanow wrote.

Attorneys for Huguely took no position on State Farm’s motion and deferred to the court, according to court filings.

Huguely is represented by Peter C. Grenier of the Grenier Law Group PLLC in Washington. State Farm is represented by Anne Kelley Howard, Laura Basem Jacobs and Walter E. Gillcrist Jr. of Budow and Noble P.C. in Rockville, Maryland.

Love’s estate and her mother, Sharon Love, are represented in the Virginia lawsuit by Jeffrey N. Stedman of Breit Cantor Grana Buckner in Richmond.

Attorneys did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Huguely is serving a 23-year sentence for second-degree murder. In May 2010, he kicked open Love’s bedroom door and assaulted her, grabbing her by the neck, wrestling her to the floor and holding her face down, according to electronic court filings. Love’s roommate found her unresponsive and police and emergency services were contacted.

The Maryland case is State Farm Fire and Casualty Company v. George W. Huguely V et al., 8:13-cv-03088.

-Heather Cobun, BridgeTower Media Newswires

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