Firm Attorneys Win Claim That Carrier Had No Duty To Defend Or Indemnify Officers Committing Intentional Acts

Firm Attorneys Win Claim That Carrier Had No Duty To Defend Or Indemnify Officers Committing Intentional Acts

March 2008

In Clarendon National Ins. Co. v. Padgett, Plaintiffs claimed that police officers, with the knowledge of officials of a local borough and while acting in and during the course of their employment, sent anonymous harassing text messages to them. Plaintiffs set forth several theories of liability including, but not limited to, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence per se for violations of two criminal statutes – harassment and disorderly conduct, invasion of privacy and conspiracy. Although two of the three police officers were criminally charged, and one admitted sending the messages, the police officers and Borough sought coverage from the Borough’s insurance carrier, Clarendon National. Clarendon National had issued a general liability coverage form, law enforcement liability coverage form, and public officials liability coverage form to the Borough.

Clarendon National provided a defense to the Borough under a reservation of rights, but refused to provide a defense to the police officers. Thereafter, Clarendon National filed a declaratory judgment complaint to obtain a judicial determination as to their duty to defend and/or indemnify. Specifically, Clarendon National contended that there was no “occurrence” as the police officers intentionally sent text messages containing lewd, scandalous, defamatory and libelous statements to Plaintiffs, the acts were not within the scope of their employment, and violated state laws.

The parties filed motions and cross-motions for summary judgment in which Clarendon National contended that the Plaintiffs alleged only intentional conduct by the police officers. The trial judge found that Clarendon National had no duty to defend the police officers as the Plaintiffs’ allegations of intentional conduct on the part of the police officers fell outside the scope of the insurance coverage. The trial judge did rule that Clarendon continued to have a duty to defend the Borough.

Jay Barry Harris and Hema Patel Mehta obtained a favorable judgment on behalf of their client, Clarendon National Insurance Company (“Clarendon National”) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.