One of two insurance companies for George Huguely V, convicted in 2012 of murdering fellow University of Virginia student Yeardley Love, may have to defend and indemnify him in the civil suit brought by Love’s mother, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow granted summary judgment for Chartis Property Casualty Company but denied State Farm Fire and Casualty Company’s motion. The companies provide homeowners insurance for Huguely’s stepfather.
Sharon Love, Yeardley Love’s mother, filed a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against Huguely in the Virginia state court in Charlottesville in 2013. The complaint for wrongful death alternatively argues that Huguely’s negligent or intentional conduct caused Love’s death.
The insurers moved for declaratory judgment after Huguely sought coverage, and the Virginia lawsuit was stayed pending the outcome. Chasanow heard arguments in January.
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. Love’s 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.
Chasanow found Huguely’s conviction for second-degree murder in a Virginia court constituted a criminal act, which the Chartis policy explicitly does not cover, but State Farm’s policy excludes injuries “expected or intended by the insured,” which did not necessarily include Huguely’s actions.
There is a dispute of material fact as to whether Huguely subjectively intended the harmful results of his actions, Chasanow, and State Farm’s summary judgment motion made no reference to “implications of the Defendant’s intoxication.”
Sharon Love, who was an interested party in the declaratory action, produced an expert witness affidavit stating Huguely was “so intoxicated that he lacked the capacity to form the specific intent to hurt Love,” according to the opinion.
State Farm also argued it did not have a duty to defend Huguely because he has not cooperated with investigators, breaching his contract, but Maryland insurance law only allows an insurer to disclaim coverage if the failure to cooperate has resulted in actual prejudice, which State Farm to show, according to Chasanow.
Maryland law is unclear on whether the prejudice to the insurer must occur relevant to the dispute over whether to cover the claim or as to the underlying tort, but Chasanow said State Farm did not show Huguely’s lack of cooperation was “so overwhelming as to prove prejudice as a matter of law.”
A telephone scheduling conference is scheduled for next month in order to proceed with State Farm’s declaratory judgment action.
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.