A Florida court of appeals recently held that two dog bites sustained by two different victims during a single attack constituted two separate occurrences under the insured’s homeowner’s policy. Maddox v. Fla. Farm Bureau Gen., 129 So.3d 1179 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014). 

While living with her boyfriend and his two dogs, a woman and her son sustained dog bites from a dog owned by her boyfriend. The dog first attacked the son, and after the woman was able to release the dog’s grip on her son, the dog bit the woman. The woman sued her boyfriend seeking damages for the injuries she sustained. His insurer exhausted its limits by payment of the son’s claim and filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that it was not liable for the injuries sustained by the woman since her injuries were subject to the same occurrence limit applicable to the son’s injuries. The insurer moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted, finding that the two dog bite injuries were subject to a single per occurrence limit. 

The appellate court reversed, finding that the two injuries were separate occurrences under the policy. The court applied the cause theory, which considers the cause of a party’s injuries for determining the number of occurrences under the policy. Because the court found that it was reasonable to construe the cause of the injuries as either the entire attack or as each separate bite, the court concluded that the policy wording regarding an occurrence was ambiguous and must be construed against the insurer.