The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals followed the “cause” approach of determining the number of occurrences, and affirmed a district court ruling that an insurer was liable to pay only a single per occurrence policy limit towards a verdict against its insured where it deemed multiple injuries to be the result of one occurrence. Evanston Ins. Co. v. Hous. Auth. of Somerset, 867 F.3d 653 (6th Cir. 2017).
The insured housing authority was a member of a self-insurance fund which held a general liability policy providing $1 million in coverage “per occurrence” for bodily injury and property damage claims subject to a $2 million aggregate limit. The housing authority was sued following an incident in which a tree fell on the housing authority’s property resulting in the death of a pregnant woman and her unborn child and severe injury to another tenant. A jury found the insured liable for failing to maintain the area around the tree and returned a multi-million dollar verdict. The insurer denied coverage for the full amount of the judgment, arguing coverage was capped at $1 million because the injuries resulted from a single occurrence. The insurer filed a declaratory judgment action, and the district court held in its favor. The insured appealed.
The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that the incident constituted a single occurrence despite multiple injuries. The court stated that when determining how many occurrences are in play, the analysis focuses on the number of causes, not the number of resulting injuries, signaling Kentucky’s adherence to the “cause approach.”