Thursday, November 28, 2019

US District Court for District of Massachusetts holds that injuries to woman kidnapped, held against her will and sex trafficked come within exclusion for false imprisonment

Lisa Ricchio alleged that she was kidnapped by Clark McLean in 2011, that he held her captive and raped and abused her for several days at the Shangri-La Motel, and that he made clear to her that he intended to force her to work as a prostitute. 

The motel was owned by Bijal, Inc.  Ashvinkumar and Sima Patel worked and lived at the motel at the time.  Ricchio alleged that Bijal and the Patels were aware of McLean's abuse of her and profited from it. She brought a civil lawsuit against them under the federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 ((TVPRA). 

Peerless Indemnity Insurance Company insured Bijal. In Ricchio v. Bijal, Inc., 2019 WL 6253275 (D. Mass.) (unpublished), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts considered Peerless's motion for summary judgment in its declaratory judgment action on its duty to defend and indemnify. 

The court first held that Ricchio had standing to oppose Peerless's motion for summary judgment even though she was not an insured, because she had an interest in defining the scope of insurance coverage separate from the interest of the insured. 

The court next addressed whether bodily injury coverage (Coverage A) was excluded by an exclusion for "bodily injury arising out of personal . . . injury."  The policy defined personal injury as including "injury, including consequential 'bodily injury,' arising out of one or more of the following offenses: . . . False arrest, detention or imprisonment." 

Peerless argued that all of Ricchio's claims "arose out of" her "false imprisonment" and therefore came within the exclusion.  Ricchio argued that the source of her personal injury was not her false imprisonment, but rather McLean's act of trafficking her. The court held that her injuries arose of of both the trafficking and the false imprisonment.  The court held that it was irrelevant that the policy contained an asbestos exclusion that excluded injury "arising, in whole or in part, either directly or indirectly out of" asbestos.  If the policy had such broad language in a clause applying to false imprisonment, then the false imprisonment exclusion could be read more narrowly. 

The court then addressed whether there was coverage under Coverage B, Personal Injury Liability.  I will discuss that in my next post.  

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