Rodriguez by Brennan v. Williams

Decision Date21 January 1986
Docket NumberNo. 13166-4-I,13166-4-I
Citation42 Wn.App. 633,713 P.2d 135
PartiesDaylette M. RODRIGUEZ, a minor child, by Denise BRENNAN, her Guardian ad Litem, Appellant, v. Darrell Wade WILLIAMS, Defendant, and American States Insurance Company, a foreign corporation, Respondent. PEMCO INSURANCE COMPANY, Petitioner, v. Thomas L. HOGLUND; Kimberly Hoglund, and the marital community composed thereof; Frederick Mendoza, as Guardian ad Litem for Kelly Hoglund, a minor, and Jessica Hoglund, a minor; Richard Tachibana and Jane Doe Tachibana, and the marital community composed thereof; Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, a non-profit Washington corporation, d/b/a Group Health Hospital and Group Health Cooperative Clinic, Respondents.
CourtWashington Court of Appeals

Greg D. Boos, Brett & Daugert, Dean R. Brett, Bellingham, for Daylette M. Rodriguez.

Rusing & Platte, Gary M. Rusing, Bellingham, for Darrell Wade Williams.

Keller, Rohrback, Waldo, Hiscock, Butterworth & Fardal, William C. Smart, Seattle, for American States Ins.

Merrick, Hofstedt & Lindsey, Sidney R. Snyder, Seattle, for Pemco Ins. Co.

Patterson & Patterson, Mark T. Patterson, Everett, for Thomas L. Hoglund.

Cynthia B. Whitaker, Seattle, for Kimberly Hoglund.

Ellington & Johansen, Helen M. Johansen, Seattle, for Frederick Mendoza.

Williams, Lanza, Kastner, & Gibbs, Mary H. Spillane, Seattle, for Richard & Jane Doe Tachibana and Group Health Co-op.

Bertha Fitzer, Burgess, Kennedy & Fitzer, Frederick R. Burgess, Tacoma, for Washington Ass'n of Defense Counsel.

WILLIAMS, Judge.

These cases consolidated for purposes of review require determination of the extent of insurance coverage. In the first case, Daylette Rodriguez, age 15, through her guardian ad litem, brought an action against Darrell Williams, her stepfather, and American States Insurance Company for a declaratory judgment that the homeowner's insurance policy American States issued to Williams provides coverage for the damages caused by Williams's incestuous relationship with her. The trial court granted American States's motion for summary judgment of dismissal, and Rodriguez appeals.

The policy provides:

SECTION II--LIABILITY COVERAGES

COVERAGE F

PERSONAL INJURY

LIABILITY

and

COVERAGE H

PROPERTY DAMAGE

LIABILITY

If a claim is made or a suit is brought against any insured for damages because of personal injury or property damage to which this coverage applies, we will:

a. pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which the insured is legally liable; ...

SECTION II--EXCLUSIONS

1. Coverage F--Personal Injury Liability ... do[es] not apply to bodily injury or property damage:

a. which is expected or intended by the insured, but this exclusion does not apply to any act committed by or at the direction of the insured not intended to cause serious bodily injury or property damage;

Clerk's Papers, at 54.

In the second case, Pemco Insurance Company brought an action against Thomas and Kimberly Hoglund, Frederick Mendoza, the guardian ad litem for Kelly and Jessica Hoglund, ages 3 and 1 respectively, Richard Tachibana and his wife and Group Health Cooperative for a declaratory judgment that the homeowner's insurance policy Pemco issued to Thomas Hoglund does not provide coverage for the damages caused by his sexual contact with Kelly his stepdaughter and Jessica his daughter. The trial court denied Pemco's motion for summary judgment, and this court granted discretionary review.

Hoglund's homeowner's insurance policy with Pemco provides:

COVERAGE E PERSONAL LIABILITY

If a claim is made or a suit is brought against any insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which this coverage applies, we will:

a. pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which the insured is legally liable: ...

1. Coverage E--Personal Liability ... do[es] not apply to bodily injury or property damage:

a. which is expected or intended by the insured Clerk's Papers, at 8.

In both cases, the fathers admitted having the alleged relations with their respective children, but denied any intent to injure them. They supplied for the summary judgment proceedings sufficient evidence, through their own affidavits and those of psychologists, to create an issue of such intent.

To be applied are:

certain basic principles that apply in any examination of exclusionary clauses in insurance contracts. Chief among these is that exclusionary clauses are to be most strictly construed against the insurer. The policy should be interpreted in accordance with the way it would be understood by the average person purchasing insurance. It must not be forgotten that the purpose of insurance is to insure, and that construction should be taken which will render the contract operative, rather than inoperative. A construction which contradicts the general purpose of the contract or results in a hardship or absurdity is presumed to be unintended by the parties.

These are principles that are not confined to Washington law, but are of nationwide application.

(Citations omitted.) Phil Schroeder, Inc. v. Royal Globe Ins. Co., 99 Wash.2d 65, 68-69, 659 P.2d 509 (1983), modified, 101 Wash.2d 830, 683 P.2d 186 (1984).

In addition, the interpretation of an insurance contract is a question of law to be decided by the court, and the intention of the parties is to be determined from the language of the contract viewed against the setting in which it is formed. Greer v. Northwestern National Ins. Co., 36 Wash.App. 330, 334-35, 674 P.2d 1257 (1984).

With these precepts in mind, we decide that neither policy was formed with any intent to protect a father from liability for damages caused by his own deliberate sexual assault upon his child or children. The average person purchasing homeowner's insurance would cringe at the...

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