On December 19, 2017, the Connecticut Supreme Court released its decision in Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Pasiak. The decision is significant for two reasons: 1) it clarifies the amount of proof an insurer needs to determine whether an exclusion to coverage applies; and 2) it found that where an insurance policy expressly provides coverage for an intentional act such as false imprisonment, common-law punitive damages are also covered.
The underlying action proves that real life is often stranger than fiction. Ms. S worked as an office help for a construction company owned by Mr. P, which operated out of his home. Ms. S was working alone in the home office, when an armed, masked intruder entered the office, tied her hands, gagged and blindfolded her and, pointing a gun to her head, threatened to kill her family if she did not give him the combination to a safe in the home. As this was happening, Mr. P entered the office, unmasked the intruder, and discovered it was his lifelong friend. After Ms. S was untied, she asked to leave, but Mr. P told her to stay. She was not allowed to leave for several hours as Mr. P made her accompany him to an errand. Ms. S sued Mr. P for false imprisonment, among other things. The trial court awarded her compensatory and punitive damages. Insurance coverage for the underlying judgment is at the heart of the Pasiak case.