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Vol. 12 - Issue 7

September 6, 2023


The Role Of Self-Defense On The Duty To Defend A Claim


Without getting into the blow-by-blow details, a fight broke out in the parking lot of a bar in Billings, Montana between Matthew Frank and Louis Delgado.  Frank, a police officer, had been in the bar drinking.  He allegedly exited the bar and did a “flying knee” into the driver’s side door of Delgado’s vehicle.  The situation dramatically escalated from there. 

[I have never heard of a “flying knee.”  But Google took care of that. 

Here's a You Tube video of UFC flying knee highlights.] 
Delgado sued Frank for injuries sustained.  In his answer, Frank asserted self-defense.     

Allstate, Frank’s insurer under a homeowner’s and personal umbrella policy denied coverage.  The opinion notes that Allstate defended Frank under a reservation of rights.  Allstate filed an action seeking a determination that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Frank. 
As Allstate saw it, as the underlying complaint alleged solely intentional conduct, there was no “occurrence,” so no coverage was owed.  Frank disagreed, maintaining that the duty to defend determination was not based solely on the allegations in the complaint.  Frank argued that the duty to defend determination must include other facts known to Allstate, including that Frank raised self-defense in his answer.

Following a lengthy legal analysis, the court in Allstate Vehicle v. Frank, No. 22-70 (D. Mont. Aug. 17, 2023) concluded that a defense was owed to Frank as he had asserted a colorable claim of self-defense.  Thus, the conduct alleged in Delgado’s action may have qualified as an “occurrence.” 

While I kept this summary brief, it makes the point of the role that an insurer’s claim of self-defense can have in a dispute over coverage for assault and battery.




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