A Texas Court of Appeals held that intentional acts were not “occurrences” even though the result or injury may have been unintended, freeing an insurer from defending its insured against a suit for conversion. Drew v. Texas Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, 2014 WL 7476481 (Tex. App.-Dallas Dec. 31, 2014).
The insureds purchased a home in foreclosure. The home was occupied at the time of the purchase, and it was alleged that the insureds changed the locks on the home while the occupants were temporarily out of the house. The insureds subsequently removed the occupants’ personal property from the home and sold or disposed of it at a garage sale. The occupants sued the insured for damages related to the sale of their property, and the insureds tendered the defense of the suit to their insurer. The insurer denied coverage for lack of an “occurrence.” The insureds argued that although their act of selling the property was deliberate, it should be considered accidental because it was done without knowledge of the pertinent fact that the property had not been abandoned. The court of appeals analyzed two Texas Supreme Court cases discussing the definition of “accidental” and “occurrence”: Argonaut Sw. Ins. Co. v. Maupin, 500 S.W.2d 633 (Tex. 1973) and Massachusetts Bonding & Ins. Co. v. Orkin, 416 S.W.2d 396 (Tex. 1967). Argonaut holds that intentional torts are not accidents, and thus are not occurrences regardless of whether the effect was unintended. Orkin stands for the proposition that deliberate acts, performed negligently, are accidents if the effect is not the intended or expected result. In analogizing the case to Maupin, the appellate court determined that the sale of the occupants’ possessions was intentional and deliberate, even if the insureds had no intent to injure the occupants.