Home Page The Publication The Editor Contact Information Insurance Key issues Book Subscribe

Vol. 5, Iss. 2
February 10, 2016


Husband Sues Wife Over Valentine’s Day Present


This is an insanely crazy case. But, at its core, it involves an interesting coverage issue. It is just the kind of case that was made for the “Open Mic” column. It was decided several months ago – but I held it for this issue.

Roger and Sharon Buckley were husband and wife. Roger bought Sharon a “gold dipped rose” for Valentine’s Day. This is a real rose that has been preserved and trimmed with 24 karat gold. It is made to last forever. Sharon was not impressed with her husband’s purchase. She took to Facebook to declare it “the tackiest thing I have ever seen.” Sharon then added to her FB post: “I think Roger has a girlfriend, he gave her this hideous thing and she gave it back. It must not be returnable so now it’s mine.”

Shortly after Valentine’s Day the Buckleys’ marriage broke up. Sharon filed for divorce. It proceeded quickly and was finalized eight months later. But that wasn’t the last time that the Buckleys would find themselves in a courthouse. Roger learned about Sharon’s Facebook post stating that the gold dipped rose was originally intended for his girlfriend. Roger did not in fact have a girlfriend. The rose had been bought for Sharon. Roger believed that Sharon’s Facebook post was a libelous statement that he had engaged in infidelity. In Roger Buckley v. Sharon Buckley, No. 14-0643, Iowa District Court, Linn County, Roger sued Sharon for defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Sharon sought coverage for Roger’s defamation suit from her homeowner’s insurer – Hawkeye Property Casualty & Surety Insurance Company. There was no doubt that the defamation suit triggered the insuring agreement, under the liability section of the homeowner’s policy, as an “oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that libels or slanders a person.” However, Hawkeye P&C disclaimed coverage for the suit on the basis of the “Insured vs. Insured” exclusion. Sharon had no means to defend Roger’s suit or challenge the disclaimer. Roger’s lawyer worked with Sharon to reach a $95,000 settlement, assignment of her policy rights to Roger and a covenant not to execute on Sharon’s assets. Roger filed suit against Hawkeye P&C seeking coverage for the settlement.

Hawkeye filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the Insured vs. Insured exclusion. As Hawkeye saw it, it was a simple matter. At the time of Sharon’s allegedly defamatory Facebook post, Roger and Sharon Buckley were Named Insureds on the homeowner’s policy. Therefore, the defamation action was clearly filed by one Insured against another Insured.

However, to the court in Roger Buckley, as Assignee of Sharon Buckley v. Hawkeye Property Casualty & Surety Insurance Company, No. 15-2657, Iowa District Court, Linn County (Oct. 28 2015), it wasn’t so simple. The court held that the Insured vs. Insured exclusion was not applicable. While it’s true that Sharon and Roger Buckley were both Insureds at the time of the allegedly defamatory statement, Roger was no longer an Insured at the time that he filed suit against Sharon. By that point, Sharon was living alone in the former marital home and the policy was now issued only to her. On that basis, the court held that the Insured vs. Insured exclusion did not apply. As for the $95,000 settlement, the court intimated that it agreed with Hawkeye P&C that it was excessive. However, having disclaimed coverage for a defense for the suit, the court stated that Hawkeye was not in a position to challenge the amount of the settlement.

Seemingly given the nature of the case the court couldn’t help itself from closing with a poem:

Roses are red;
But sometimes they’re gold;
If you don’t like this kind;
Your tongue you should hold;

Always remember;
It’s the thought that counts;
Don’t complain on Facebook;
Or lawyers will pounce.

That’s my time. I’m Randy Spencer. Contact Randy Spencer at




Website by Balderrama Design Copyright Randy Maniloff All Rights Reserved