Last month, the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled that injury caused by an insured’s mishandling of a homemade explosive device is not covered under a homeowners policy because the injury was “reasonably to be expected.” Kiser v. Coffey, 2008-Ohio-5170 (Ohio Ct. App. Oct. 3, 2008).

According to the court, on June 26, 2004, the insured hosted a party at his home at which he and another guest began firing a potato gun, which is a device that shoots potatoes into the air by means of a propellant. At some point, the two men began using gunpowder to fire the potato gun, and it exploded, killing one guest and injuring another.

The insurer paid a claim against the insured brought by the estate of the guest killed in the explosion. However, it then declined to provide coverage for a claim made by the injured guest. The insurer filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the injured guest against the insured, and obtained a declaratory judgment that it owed no coverage to the insured in connection with that lawsuit. The trial court based its decision on a policy exclusion for bodily injuries or property damage that “may reasonably be expected to result from the intentional or criminal acts … of the insured.”

On appeal, the insured argued that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that the injuries might reasonably be expected to result from the insured’s acts. However, the Ohio Court of Appeals disagreed, reasoning that because the insured fired the device, which was “more akin to a pipe bomb than a typical potato gun,” in close proximity to several people, it could not conclude that the trial court’s finding was unreasonable.

Click here to read the decision.