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Insurers seek to deny coverage to Yeardley Love’s killer

huguely-2gifInsurance companies for George Huguely V, convicted in 2012 of murdering fellow University of Virginia student Yeardley Love, are asking a federal judge to allow them to decline to defend Huguely or cover any damages from the civil suit filed by Love’s mother because he has not cooperated with their investigators and his conduct falls outside of his policies’ coverage.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow will hear arguments Jan. 10 on motions for summary judgment filed in separate cases by State Farm Fire and Casualty Company and Chartis Property Casualty Company, the homeowners insurance providers for Huguely’s stepfather.

Sharon Love, Yeardley Love’s mother, filed a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against Huguely in the Circuit Court for Charlottesville, Virginia in 2013. The complaint for wrongful death alternatively argues that Huguely’s negligent or intentional conduct caused Love’s death.

Huguely is serving a 23-year sentence for second-degree murder. In May 2010, he kicked open Love’s bedroom door and assaulted her, grabbing her by the neck, wrestling her to the floor and holding her face down, according to electronic court filings. Her roommate found her unresponsive later and police and emergency services were contacted.

After being identified as a suspect, Huguely said he went to Love’s apartment to get her to talk to him. The two were both seniors and involved in a “tumultuous romantic relationship,” according to court documents.

Huguely described the assault to police and said he pushed Love onto her bed before leaving the apartment but ended the interview when he asked for a lawyer. Huguely’s appeals have been unsuccessful but he filed a habeas corpus petition in state court in January 2016 which is still pending.

Huguely is represented by Peter C. Grenier of the Genier Law Group PLLC in Washington, D.C. Grenier did not respond to a request for comment.

Insurance coverage

In the summary judgment motions, filed or supplemented in early December, both insurers contend Huguely breached his contracts and released them from their duty to defend him in the civil case or cover damages. They also argue that based on the facts available, Huguely’s actions are not covered by their policies.

Attorneys for State Farm and Chartis declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Huguely has not responded to multiple requests for examination by their investigators, which State Farm said “demonstrates Huguely’s complete disregard for, and total non compliance with his contractual obligations.”

In responses to the insurance companies’ motions, filed Wednesday, Huguely and his family argue neither company has shown there are credible defenses or jury issues in the civil litigation prejudiced by Huguely’s silence, which is based on his pending habeas petition that could still result in his conviction being overturned.

Because there is still a potential for the claim to be covered by the policy, Maryland law requires the insurers to defend Huguely, according to the responses.

State Farm claims coverage does not extend to bodily injury that is expected or intended or the result of willful and malicious acts by the insured, which applies to Huguely’s acts. Chartis argues coverage is excluded because Huguely’s actions were criminal, which is an exception to coverage in their contract.

Huguely maintains in response that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether his actions fall within the exclusionary language in the State Farm policy because there is evidence available that his actions were negligent, not malicious or willful. He also argues that, because the conviction could be overturned, Chartis has a duty to defend him because his acts may not be criminal.

Love, who is an interested party in the litigation, similarly opposes summary judgment because Huguely’s lack of examination under oath does not amount to total lack of cooperation and whether the companies’ have been prejudiced is a question for the jury. She also argues that there is a dispute over whether Huguely’s actions were intentional or not.

The cases are State Farm Fire and Casualty Company v. George W. Huguely V et al., 8:13-cv-03088, and Chartis Property Casualty Company v. George W. Huguely V et al., 8:13-cv-01479.


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