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Vol.11 - Issue 5

October 15, 2022

Guilty Plea Does Not Establish Intent To Defeat Coverage
At issue in Safeco Inc. Co. v. Dooms, No. 21-5034 (W.D. Ark. Mar. 23, 2022) was the availability of coverage for Dillon Dooms, a photographer, for claims brought against him by models who were surreptitiously video-taped as they were changing outfits in his studio.  Despite the fact that Mr. Dooms plead guilty to video voyeurism, the court concluded that this was not dispositive of his intent for purposes of applying a criminal act exclusion.  I thought that the court’s rationale for this was interesting:

“Safeco asserts the guilty plea serves as an admission that the tortious conduct—recording State-Court Plaintiffs without first providing notice or obtaining consent—was purposeful, not accidental, and Defendants are precluded from arguing otherwise. However, under controlling Arkansas law, Mr. Dooms’ guilty plea does not establish his intent for collateral estoppel purposes. *** Mr. Dooms’ plea is not dispositive of his intent. Mr. Dooms had incentive to enter a guilty plea when he was faced with 13 counts of voyeurism that could total a sentence of 78 years of incarceration.  Mr. Dooms agreed to a term of incarceration of five years in his plea agreement. Under Bradley Ventures, this reduction in sentence provided alternative motivation for Mr. Dooms to plead guilty. The record does not supply sufficient facts to establish Mr. Dooms’ failure to warn was intentional, and the Court cannot grant summary judgment based on the Criminal Acts Exclusion.”


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