Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Insurer for Pring-Wilson's mother argues no coverage for civil wrongful death suit

The sad, sordid tale of Alexander Pring-Wilson has made its way into the insurance coverage realm.

Pring-Wilson was a Harvard University graduate student who allegedly stabbed to death townie Michael Colono in an early morning fight in 2003. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter; had the conviction overturned in an appeal that set new precedent regarding the admissibility of a history of violence by an alleged victim; had a second trial that resulted in a hung jury; and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Colono's estate then filed a civil action for wrongful death against Pring-Wilson.

In the latest chapter, last month Fire Insurance Company, which issued homeowners and umbrella policies to Pring-Wilson's mother, has filed a declaratory judgment action in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts seeking a declaration that Pring-Wilson is not covered under the policy. According to the complaint, Pring-Wilson's mother lives and the insured property is located in Colorado. Pring-Wilson was an emancipated adult attending school in Massachusetts.

Fire Insurance alleges that there is no coverage because Pring-Wilson is not a member of his mother's household and because the stabbing was not an "accident" within the meaning of the policy.

Under the Massachusetts choice of law doctrine, the federal court in Massachusetts will most likely apply the law of Colorado to determine the coverage dispute. (I'll discuss choice of law issues generally in a future post.) While I have never looked at the definition of "member of an insured's household" under Colorado law, I have looked at it under Massachusetts law. There are several cases that hold that an adult child not living with a parent is a member of the parent's household only if the absence from the household is intended to be temporary; financial dependence is also a factor.


tester said...


Anonymous said...

Read the contract. (It is an exhibit.) This particular one has an unusual definition of members of the household.