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Insurance Coverage-Definition of “Occurrence”


Insurance Coverage-Definition of “Occurrence”


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WI Court of Appeals – District I

Case Name: Najjar Abdullah v. Inspire Brands, Inc.

Case No.: 2022AP001306

Officials: White, C.J., Geenen and Gill, JJ.

Focus: Insurance Coverage-Definition of “Occurrence”

Meress & Associates LLC (“Meress”) appeals orders of the circuit court denying its motion for summary judgment, granting the cross-motion for summary judgment of West Bend Mutual Insurance Company (“West Bend”), and entering judgment in West Bend’s favor. Meress argues that the circuit court erred when it concluded that West Bend had no duty to defend Meress under the insurance policy issued by West Bend to Meress (the “Policy”).
The dispute centered on whether West Bend had a duty to defend Meress under an insurance policy, following an incident where a Meress-employed security guard, unlicensed as required by Wisconsin law, assaulted Abdullah at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant.

Meress argued that their policy covered the claims made in Abdullah’s lawsuit, particularly focusing on allegations of negligent hiring since the security guard lacked the necessary license. They claimed that this triggered West Bend’s duty to defend them. The appellate court, however, concluded that the complaint did not allege an “occurrence” under the policy’s definition, as the guard’s actions were intentional and not accidental. The court drew on Wisconsin law which defines an occurrence as an accident, and incidents resulting from deliberate acts do not qualify.

The court also dismissed Meress’s claim under Coverage B (personal and advertising injury), as the allegations did not sufficiently detail claims of false arrest or malicious prosecution to trigger coverage. Additionally, the court found that a policy endorsement concerning specific operations did not create new coverage independent of the occurrence requirement.

Ultimately, the court held that the underlying actions leading to Abdullah’s complaint were intentional, negating the potential for accidental coverage, and upheld the decision that West Bend was not obligated to defend Meress in the lawsuit.


Decided 04/09/24

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