The Coverage Fun House Mirror: When Things Are Not What They Seem

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Some policy language has more to it than meets the eye.

December 14, 2020
Randy J. Maniloff - White and Williams LLP

When it comes to commercial general liability coverage, sometimes things are not what they seem. Some policy language looks like it has a clear meaning. But it turns out that there is more than meets the eye. To see this, you need not look further than the first page of the commercial general liability form. Take its insuring agreement. Its words are by now etched in stone tablets. But even so.

Any potential coverage is tied, in part, to damages because of “bodily injury.” Everyone knows what “bodily injury” is. The blood and broken bones are hard to miss. But is emotional injury bodily injury? Or what about hair loss, weight loss, fragile fingernails, loss of sleep, crying or a knot in your stomach? Courts have been required to address whether all of these are “bodily injury.”

And was that “bodily injury” caused by an “occurrence?” as required by the CGL insuring agreement? An “occurrence” is defined as an accident. Of course everyone knows what an accident is. Then why is it the oldest and most litigated coverage question of them all, with courts struggling with it for about 150 years?

Mr. Maniloff may be contacted at


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