Do Wisconsinites have insurance coverage if your child hurts another child in your home?
The Court of Appeals in Rosenthal vs. Christian, 2016AP444, may have helped answer that question. In this case, Grayson went over to hang out with his friend Noah at Noah’s house. Noah, Grayson and Noah’s brother, Jordan, got into a playful wrestling match. Grayson picked up their cell phones and ran into the living room pretending to steal them as a joke. Jordan chased Grayson and put him in a “sleeper hold”. Grayson was severely injured, apparently from the loss of oxygen and from striking his head when falling. One of Noah and Jordan’s parents were home but allegedly did nothing to stop the incident.
Grayson’s parents attempted to sue their friend’s parents’ homeowner’s insurance company alleging that Jordan’s actions were negligent and his parents’ actions were negligent as well for failing to supervise appropriately.
The parents’ insurance company argued that Jordan’s actions were intentional and therefore excluded from coverage (most insurance policies do not cover intentional acts). The Court of Appeals agreed. Jordan did intend to choke Grayson. While Jordan did not intend to hurt Grayson, the act of choking was an intentional act. As such, there was no insurance coverage for Jordan’s direct actions.
In addition, the Court of Appeals also determined that there could be no claim for negligent supervision because that claim could not stand alone without the excluded claim. The Court noted that the result may be unjust but the interpretation of the insurance policy was clear. In the end, Grayson was not able to pursue recovery from his friend’s insurance policy. Given that there was no insurance coverage, Grayson’s parents would have had to make the difficult decision whether to sue Noah and Jordan’s parents personally. When there is no insurance this is often a very difficult decision between friends and acquaintances.
Although this opinion was not published it provides insight into the financial repercussions of children’s seemingly innocent horseplay. Please contact Bosshard | Parke Ltd. to schedule a consultation.