Farmers Texas County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, No. 96-0898

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Citation41 Tex. Sup.Ct. J. 103,955 S.W.2d 81
Parties41 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 103 FARMERS TEXAS COUNTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Petitioner, v. Robert GRIFFIN, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 96-0898
Decision Date13 November 1997

Page 81

955 S.W.2d 81
41 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 103
FARMERS TEXAS COUNTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Petitioner,
v.
Robert GRIFFIN, Respondent.
No. 96-0898.
Supreme Court of Texas.
Nov. 13, 1997.

Craig Randal Lively, Beaumont, for Petitioner.

John Andrew Cowan, Beaumont, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM.

This is a declaratory judgment action. Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Company sought a declaration that it had no duty to defend or indemnify its insured, James Royal III, in a suit brought by Robert Griffin. The trial court granted summary judgment for Farmers. The court of appeals

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reversed, holding that Farmers has a duty to defend Royal but not to indemnify him. We hold that, under the facts alleged against Royal, Farmers has no duty to defend Royal in the underlying suit. We further hold that Farmers' duty to indemnify Royal constituted a justiciable controversy properly reached and decided by the trial court. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and render judgment for Farmers.

After issuing our original opinion, we recognized an issue regarding the justiciability of the duty to indemnify, which we must raise sua sponte. Central Sur. & Ins. Corp. v. Anderson, 445 S.W.2d 514, 515 (Tex.1969). We requested further briefing from the parties on this question, and now withdraw our former opinion and substitute this one in its stead.

On October 22, 1991, gunshots from a passing vehicle hit and injured Robert Griffin as he walked down the street in Beaumont, Texas. Griffin sued the driver of the vehicle, James Royal III, and others for negligence and gross negligence resulting in injury to his right leg. 1 Griffin alleged that Royal drove the vehicle while his two passengers fired the shots. Royal invoked Farmers' duty to defend him under his personal automobile liability insurance policy. Farmers defended Royal subject to a reservation of rights and then filed this declaratory judgment action to challenge its duty to defend and indemnify Royal. The record shows that the suit between Griffin and Royal remains pending.

Farmers' policy provides that Farmers "will pay damages for bodily injury or property damage for which any covered person becomes legally responsible because of an auto accident. ... We will settle or defend, as we consider appropriate, any claim or suit asking for these damages." (Emphasis added.) The policy defines a "covered person" as "you or any family member for the ownership, maintenance, or use of any auto or trailer." (Emphasis added.) The policy excludes coverage for any person "[w]ho intentionally causes bodily injury or property damage."

An insurer's duty to defend and duty to indemnify are distinct and separate duties. Trinity Universal Ins. Co. v. Cowan, 945 S.W.2d 819, 821-22 (Tex.1997). Thus, an insurer may have a duty to defend but, eventually, no duty to indemnify. For example, a plaintiff pleading both negligent and intentional conduct may trigger an insurer's duty to defend, but a finding that the insured acted intentionally and not negligently may negate the insurer's duty to indemnify. We therefore address these two duties separately.

In National Union Fire Insurance Co. v. Merchants Fast Motor Lines, Inc., 939 S.W.2d 139 (Tex.1997), we reiterated that the petition's allegations and the policy's language determine the insurer's duty to defend. Id. at 141; see also Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, Inc. v. McManus, 633 S.W.2d 787, 788 (Tex.1982). A court must focus on the factual allegations rather than the legal theories asserted in reviewing the underlying petition. National Union, 939 S.W.2d at 141. In determining whether Farmers has a duty to defend Royal, then, we must decide whether Griffin has alleged an auto accident that does not involve intentional acts.

Griffin's petition alleges that "[s]uddenly and without warning, a vehicle driven by [Royal] approached Mr. Griffin. Several rounds of gunfire were discharged from the vehicle in the direction of the Plaintiff." It continues: "This drive-by shooting was a random act of violence which has permanently injured and scarred the plaintiff." Thus,

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although Griffin seeks relief on legal theories of negligence and gross negligence, he alleged facts indicating that the origin of his damages was intentional behavior. He made no factual contention that could constitute negligent behavior by Royal. See National Union, 939 S.W.2d at 141. Griffin's claim is within the policy's exclusion of intentional acts. Farmers therefore has no duty to defend Royal.

Farmers is not required to defend Royal for another reason: Griffin's petition does not allege that his injuries resulted from an auto accident. "The term 'auto accident' refers to situations where one or more...

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340 practice notes
  • Mbm Financial v. Woodlands Operating Co., No. 08-0390.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • August 28, 2009
    ...43. See, e.g., Fairfield Ins. Co. v. Stephens Martin Paving, LP, 246 S.W.3d 653 (Tex.2008); Farmers Tex. County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, 955 S.W.2d 81 (Tex. 1997) (per curiam); Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Merchants Fast Motor Lines, Inc., 939 S.W.2d 139 (Tex. 1997) (per......
  • Lamar Homes, Inc. v. Mid-Continent Cas. Co., No. 05-0832.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • August 31, 2007
    ...of action—whether it be tort, contract, or warranty-does not determine the duty to defend. Farmers Tex. County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, 955 S.W.2d 81, 82 (Tex.1997). The dissent also accuses the Court of creating coverage from the subcontractor. exception to the your-work exclusion, noting......
  • Lamar Homes, Inc. v. Mid-Continent Cas. Co., No. 05-0832.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • August 31, 2007
    ...action — whether it be tort, contract, or warranty-does not determine the duty to defend. Farmers Tex. County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, 955 S.W.2d 81, 82 The dissent also accuses the Court of creating coverage from the subcontractor exception to the your-work exclusion, noting that "it has ......
  • Texas Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sturrock, No. 02-0069.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • August 27, 2004
    ...a different interpretation. We have held that the term "auto accident"3 is not ambiguous. Farmers Tex. County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, 955 S.W.2d 81, 83 (Tex.1997); see also Aetna Life & Cas. v. Fed. Ins. Co., No. CIV. A.96-5995, 1997 WL 746189, at *4 (E.D.Pa. Nov.26, 1997) (finding the te......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
341 cases
  • Mbm Financial v. Woodlands Operating Co., No. 08-0390.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • August 28, 2009
    ...43. See, e.g., Fairfield Ins. Co. v. Stephens Martin Paving, LP, 246 S.W.3d 653 (Tex.2008); Farmers Tex. County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, 955 S.W.2d 81 (Tex. 1997) (per curiam); Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Merchants Fast Motor Lines, Inc., 939 S.W.2d 139 (Tex. 1997) (per......
  • Lamar Homes, Inc. v. Mid-Continent Cas. Co., No. 05-0832.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • August 31, 2007
    ...of action—whether it be tort, contract, or warranty-does not determine the duty to defend. Farmers Tex. County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, 955 S.W.2d 81, 82 (Tex.1997). The dissent also accuses the Court of creating coverage from the subcontractor. exception to the your-work exclusion, noting......
  • Lamar Homes, Inc. v. Mid-Continent Cas. Co., No. 05-0832.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • August 31, 2007
    ...action — whether it be tort, contract, or warranty-does not determine the duty to defend. Farmers Tex. County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, 955 S.W.2d 81, 82 The dissent also accuses the Court of creating coverage from the subcontractor exception to the your-work exclusion, noting that "it has ......
  • Texas Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sturrock, No. 02-0069.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • August 27, 2004
    ...a different interpretation. We have held that the term "auto accident"3 is not ambiguous. Farmers Tex. County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Griffin, 955 S.W.2d 81, 83 (Tex.1997); see also Aetna Life & Cas. v. Fed. Ins. Co., No. CIV. A.96-5995, 1997 WL 746189, at *4 (E.D.Pa. Nov.26, 1997) (finding the te......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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