Court Finds No Coverage for Workplace “Prank” With Nail Gun

Construction worker in funny pose

Burby allegedly discharged a nail gun in the bathroom of a work facility at which both Burby and the underlying plaintiff worked.

April 4, 2022
Craig Rokuson - Traub Lieberman Insurance Law Blog

In the recent case of Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Burby, 2022 NY Slip Op 22070, ¶ 1 (Sup. Ct.) Justice Richard M. Platkin of the Supreme Court of Albany County, New York examined a homeowners insurance policy and determined that a duty to defend was triggered in a case seeking recovery for injuries sustained when the insured, Burby allegedly discharged a nail gun in the bathroom of a work facility at which both Burby and the underlying plaintiff worked. Burby pled guilty to assault in the third degree for recklessly causing physical injury. MetLife, Burby’s carrier, disclaimed coverage based on lack of an occurrence, the business activities exclusion and the intentional loss exclusion, which bars coverage for injuries expected or intended by the insured or injuries that are the result of the insured’s intentional and criminal acts or omissions. Justice Platkin initially reviewed the intentional loss exclusion and lack of an occurrence and found that, from a duty to defend perspective, neither provided a dispositive coverage defense. However, the court found that the broadly worded business activities exclusion, which was not the subject of MetLife’s motion and instead was the subject of a cross motion by Burby, applied to bar coverage. In doing so, the court searched the record and granted summary judgment on the issue, despite MetLife not moving for relief under the exclusion.

With respect to the expected or intended prong of the intentional loss exclusion, the court found that, even if Burby did intend to pull the trigger of the nail gun, it was not pled in the underlying complaint that the harm that resulted to the plaintiff was expected or intended. As such, the court concluded that MetLife did not prove that there was no possible factual or legal basis upon which it could be found that Burby did not reasonably expect or intend to cause injury to the plaintiff.

Mr. Rokuson may be contacted at crokuson@tlsslaw.com



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