A federal court in South Carolina recently held that negligence claims arising from a hazing incident alleged an “occurrence” triggering the duty to defend. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Ingraham, 2017 WL 976301 (D. S.C. Mar. 14, 2017).
The court considered a declaratory judgment action brought to determine whether a homeowners’ insurer had a duty to defend the son of its insureds in connection with an underlying lawsuit asserting allegations of hazing by members of a college swim team. The insurer argued that coverage was not triggered because the underlying complaint alleged intentional acts not qualifying as an “occurrence” under the policy.
The court disagreed, finding that the allegations of intentional actions did not necessarily defeat coverage. The court noted that the “occurrence” requirement is met under South Carolina law if either the act itself or the resulting injury is accidental. Thus, because the underlying complaint did not allege that the insured’s son intended the specific injury sustained by the claimant, the duty to defend was triggered. The court was also influenced by the trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss the negligence claims in the underlying lawsuit, finding that the underlying complaint contained sufficient facts to state a cause of action for negligence.