The mother of Yeardley Love has asked a federal appeals court to overturn a lower-court ruling that a $6 million insurance policy for the man convicted of Love’s murder cannot be used to indemnify him in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Sharon Love filed a $30 million civil lawsuit against George Huguely V in Virginia in 2013. Huguely asked the companies providing homeowners insurance to his stepfather to defend and indemnify him, prompting the companies to seek a declaratory judgment in U.S. District Court in Maryland.
U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow granted summary judgment for Chartis Property Casualty Company in March, ruling Huguely’s conviction constituted a criminal act under the Chartis contract despite his argument that he is still pursuing post-conviction relief. She denied a similar motion from State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, allowing litigation to move forward.
The Chartis insurance policy is worth $6 million compared to the State Farm policy’s $300,000.
Sharon Love, named an interested party in the lawsuit, appealed the decision in the Chartis case. In her brief to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, filed Wednesday, Love argued the Chartis policy only denies coverage for intentional acts, not all criminal acts, and her lawsuit alleges negligence.
The policy states injury “resulting from any criminal, willful, intentional or malicious act or omission by any person” is not covered, a provision found under the heading “Intentional Acts.”
“It is a well-recognized tenant of contract interpretation that headings and captions are to be given effect in deciding the contract’s intent,” the brief states.
While Chartis expressly denies coverage of criminal acts, State Farm does not cover injuries “expected or intended by the insured.”
Chasanow found a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Huguely subjectively intended the harmful results of his actions, citing an expert opinion provided by Sharon Love stating Huguely’s intoxication could have impacted his capacity to form the specific intent to hurt Love.
Huguely is serving a 23-year sentence for his 2012 conviction 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 at the University of Virginia and involved in a “tumultuous romantic relationship,” according to court documents.
The case is Sharon D. Love v. Chartis Property and Casualty Company, No. 17-1467.