Geyer, who carried homeowner’s and
auto insurance policies with United Services Automobile Association (USAA),
notified USAA of the incident and
Speed’s claim. He requested coverage under both policies.
At his trial on criminal charges, Geyer
admitted that he had deliberately hit Mr.
Speed, but claimed he was acting in self-defense. A jury found Geyer guilty of
third degree assault.
Speed offered to release Geyer from all
claims if USAA would agree to pay the
combined policy limits under Geyer’s
homeowners and auto-insurance policies, totaling $800,000. Finding coverage
“questionable,” the insurer rejected the
demand. It subsequently sought a declaration that it had no duty to defend or
indemnify Geyer for the claim.
The trial court ruled in favor of the insurer, and the issue reached a Washington appeals court.
The Homeowners’ policy
USAA’s homeowner’s insurance policy provided coverage for bodily injury
caused by an: occurrence.
The policy defined “occurrence” as
“an accident, including continuous or
repeated exposure to substantially the
same general harmful conditions, which
results, during the policy period, in ...
The Auto Policy
The auto insurance policy provided
coverage for bodily injury caused by an:
The Appellate Court’s Decision
The appellate court affirmed. First,
it found that the incident described in
Speed’s demand letter could not be con-
sidered an “accident” for purposes of the
homeowners policy because it “unambig-
uously described [Dr.] Geyer’s conduct as
The appellate court noted that the let-
ter alleged that Dr. Geyer had chased
after Mr. Speed in his vehicle for an ex-
tended period and, when the vehicles
stopped for a traffic signal, Dr. Geyer got
out of his vehicle and beat Speed with
his fists and a metal thermos. The letter
also stated that the case was aggravated
by Dr. Geyer’s “intentional conduct”
and was not a case involving negligence.
Moreover, the appellate court contin-
ued, the letter provided “no allegations”
that would support the conclusion that
there was an “additional, unexpected,
independent and unforeseen happening”
that would convert Dr. Geyer’s deliberate
acts into an accident. The appellate court
also explained that Washington law was
“clear” that no accident existed even
when the insured’s deliberate conduct
was performed in self-defense.
It held, “Even interpreting the alle-
gations liberally and resolving doubts
in favor of a duty to defend, the USAA
homeowners policy does not conceivably
cover the allegations in [Mr.] Speed’s de-
The appellate court reached the same
conclusion with respect to Dr. Geyer’s
auto insurance policy, explaining that its
holding that Mr. Speed’s claim did not
allege an accident for purposes of the
homeowner’s policy applied equally to
the “auto accident” requirement in US-
AA’s auto policy.
The case is United Services Automobile
Ass’n v. Speed, No. 43728–7–II (Wash.
Ct.App. Jan. 28, 2014). Attorneys involved
include: Simon Henri Forgette, Attorney
at Law, Kirkland, WA, Benjamin Franklin
Barcus, Ben F. Barcus & Associates PLLC,
Tacoma, WA, Howard Mark Goodfriend,
Smith Goodfriend PS, Seattle, WA, for
Appellant; Irene Margret Hecht, Keller
Rohrback LLP, Seattle, WA, Maureen
Mullane Falecki, Keller Rohrback LLP,
Seattle, WA, for Respondent.
Steven A. Meyerowitz, Esq., is the Director
of FC&S Legal and the Editor-in-Chief of
the Insurance Coverage Law Report. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. FC&S Legal, like National
Underwriter Property & Casualty and
PropertyCasualty360.com are products of
Summit Professional Networks.
About FC&S Legal
This article was originally published on
FC&S Legal: The Insurance Coverage Law
Information Center. FC&S Legal is the
industry’s only single-source, comprehensive
portal developed specifically for insurance
coverage law professionals. To find out more,
visit www.fcandslegal.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
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