On November 7, 2016, the Appeals Court heard oral argument for Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company v. Ryan Casey & Another (16-P-32). Defendants Ryan Casey and Evan Williams appealed a Superior Court’s summary judgment decision in favor of Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company (“Liberty Mutual”) that concluded that the insured, Casey, expected or intended to cause William’s bodily injury as a matter of law. The Superior Court held that Liberty Mutual had no duty to defend or indemnify Casey or pay William’s medical expenses due to an exclusion in the policy for bodily injury “which is expected or intended by the insured.” The Appeals Court upheld the Superior Court’s decision on March 29, 2017.
William and Casey got into an altercation in a remote location. Casey punched and kicked Williams numerous times, leaving him seriously injured. Casey was indicted for the attacks and pled guilty to assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and assault and battery causing serious bodily harm. He was sentenced to a house of correction for 2 ½ years and probation. Williams made a claim under Casey’s parent’s homeowner’s insurance policy with Liberty Mutual. The policy contained certain exclusions that stated that certain coverages did not apply to “’bodily injury’…[w]hich is expected or intended by the ‘insured’, even if the resulting ‘bodily injury’ . . . is of a different kind, quality, or degree than initially expected or intended.” It is that clause that the Superior Court judge determined excluded coverage for Casey and Williams.
To prevail at the summary judgment stage based upon the exclusion at issue, Liberty Mutual needed to establish that there was no genuine factual dispute that Casey “intended, or knew with substantial certainty, that some injury would result from his conduct.” (Citations omitted.) Casey’s actions of punching Williams multiple times and kicking him in the face required as a matter of law an inference to cause harm. Casey and Williams therefore argued that there existed a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether Casey’s use of alcohol and marijuana prior to the attacks prevented him from forming the necessary intent to injure Williams, thereby preventing the entry of summary judgment. The Appeals Court disagreed. The record was clear that Casey had a clear motive and purposeful plan which included punching Williams, Casey admitted that he “intended to touch” Williams, and Casey understood that when he hit someone with his fist, he knew he would cause some level of injury. Casey’s intent to hit Williams was proven beyond dispute, his intent to injure was therefore inferred as a matter of law, and Casey’s contradictory statements did not refute this rule of law. Casey intended to commit an inherently harmful act; “his subjective intent as to the degree of injury he intended to cause is irrelevant.”
The Appeals Court found that “proof that the insured had the capacity to form and did form the intent to do an act, where the nature of that act mandates an inference of intent to injure, suffices to prove the insured’s intent to injure. Additional proof of the insured’s capacity to form that intent to injure is not required.” Relying on Casey’s own memory of the events that occurred, the Appeals Court found no genuine dispute that Casey had the capacity to form the intent, and did intend and plan to hit Williams, regardless of his consumption of alcohol and marijuana. Casey therefore must be held as a matter of law to have “expected or intended to cause Williams some bodily injury.” The Superior Court judge therefore did not err in ruling that Liberty Mutual’ s policy exclusion for bodily injury expected or intended by the insured relieved it of its duties to defend and indemnify Casey and to pay the medical expenses of Williams.