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Does Maryland Homeowners Insurance Cover Willful or Wanton Acts?

Homeowners insurance, depending upon the exact language, normally excludes intentional acts by insured that cause injury. A policy that excludes coverage for “damage which is either expected or intended from the standpoint of the insured,” has been interpreted as excluding coverage for results that were subjectively intended by insured’s act. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Sparks, 63 Md. App. 738, 742 (1985). Moreover, the court has interpreted “intent” within the insurance policy as, “…desires to cause consequences…or believes that such consequences are substantially certain to result from his conduct.” Id. at 744 (emphasis added). However, the court has distinguished “intentional” from “wanton,” in noting that “wanton” conduct is described as consequences probably certain to result. Id. (emphasis added). Under such analysis, homeowners insurance would cover for an insured’s wanton conduct causing injury to a trespasser.

A federal case, using Maryland law, discussed a policy excluding coverage for acts by the insured that “reasonably expected or intended to cause a loss.” The court stated the exclusion language applied to insured’s conduct of kicking in bathroom stall door that resulted in the door hitting the plaintiff and causing injuries. Blue Ridge Ins. Co. v. Puig, 64 F. Supp.2d 514 (1999). The court in Blue Ridge Ins. Co., distinguished the case with Allstate Ins. Co., on the fact that the insurance policy in Blue Ridge Ins. Co., excluded acts “reasonably expected…to cause a loss” as opposed to the language contained in the policy in Allstate Ins. Co. (excluding coverage for damage which is either expected or intended from the standpoint of the insured.)

Often times, their is a fine line between negligence and perceived intentional acts. This can mean the difference between insurance coverage of no insurance coverage. At Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin and White, our experienced Maryland personal injury lawyers have successfully walked this fine line on many occasions. For further information, please contact us.

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