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Insurer Does Not Have a Duty to Defend for Accidentally Trimming Neighbors Tree

On Behalf of | Feb 27, 2019 | Insurance, Real Estate |

A homeowner’s liability insurer does not have duty to defend a lawsuit after the insured intentionally pruned trees on another’s property without permission. The intentional act of hiring a contractor to prune is not an “accident” within the meaning of the policy’s coverage provision, even if the insured mistakenly believed the trees were on the boundary of her property. While the insured’s negligent supervision of the contractor, or tree damage resulting from a malfunction of the contractor’s equipment may have constituted an accident, neither the complaint nor evidence extrinsic to the complaint gave rise to liability on these grounds. The court refused to speculate about how unpled facts may affect liability or how the neighbor might amend his complaint.  See Albert v. Mid-Century Ins. Co. (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 1281

Under California law, the term “accident” in a liability policy refers to the nature of the conduct for which the claimant seeks to impose liability on the insured, not the unintended consequences of the conduct. Delgado v. Interinsurance Exchange of Automobile Club of Southern California, 47 Cal.4th 302, 311 (2009). An accident can follow from an insured’s deliberate act only if “some additional, unexpected, independent, and unforeseen happening occurs that produces the damage.” Merced Mutual Ins. Co. v. Mendez (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d 41, 50  (1989)