Wisconsin Court of Appeals Says Insurance Policy Doesn’t Cover Bulldog Attack

May 17, 2018

A state appeals court says an insurance company doesn’t have to cover a bulldog attack that left a woman hospitalized.

Shawn Lievense’s bulldog, Tank, attacked Sara Hanson and Kathryn Baumann-Mader in Kenosha County in 2015. Police tried to shock Tank with a stun gun but instead shocked Baumann-Mader. Officers then opened fire on Tank but hit Baumann-Mader in the foot. Her injuries required a week in the hospital. She needed twenty-nine staples in her thighs and crotch and surgically implanted hardware in her left foot as a result of the gunshot.

The victims sued Lievense’s insurance company, Integrity Mutual, for compensation. A judge found Integrity’s policy covered only one dog attack and Tank had already bit someone months earlier.

The court’s review of Integrity’s policy found no dispute that it provides “an initial grant of coverage for dog injuries.” The policy states that it will provide liability coverage “arising out of any one loss for which an insured person becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of bodily injury or property damage, caused by an occurrence [5] covered by this policy.”

The court found that the policy language is clear in that there is a policy exclusion precluding coverage for subsequent injuries by the same dog. The exclusion provides that “we do not cover” “[b]odily injury or property damage caused by … [a]ny dog with a prior history of causing: (1) Bodily injury to a person,” which is “established through insurance claims records, or through the records of local public safety, law enforcement or other similar regulatory agency.” The exclusion has been in place in Integrity’s policies since at least 2005.

According to the appeals court, “the victims of a dog attack by ‘Tank’, as well as Tank’s owners, ask that we reform the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy so as to provide coverage for damages Tank caused to the victims.”

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals declined, affirming that Integrity’s policy “unambiguously excludes coverage for injuries caused by a dog that has previously injured a person. The circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment as there are no facts to show that Tank’s owners requested coverage for injuries caused by a dog with a prior history of causing injury to a person or that the insurance agent understood that Tank’s owner desired such coverage and mistakenly failed to secure the alleged coverage at the time the policy was issued.”

The 2nd District Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday, adding Integrity also doesn’t have to cover injuries caused by police since they arose from Tank’s uncovered attack.

The victims’ attorney didn’t immediately reply to an email.

The case is Kathryn Baumann-Mader v. Integrity Mutual Insurance Company 2017AP001369.

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