Tennessee Court Rules Homeowners Policy Doesn’t Cover Sons’ Shootings

A homeowners insurance policy does not cover damages from a fatal sniper attack by the sons of the policyholders, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled.

The court ruled that a policy exclusion barring coverage for damages “reasonably expected or intended” applies to the shootings.

One motorist was killed and another was seriously injured in the 2003 shootings by the policyholders’ teenage sons, 15 year old Will Buckner and 13 year old Josh Buckner.

The victims’ families brought a personal injury suits and a wrongful death action against the Buckners.

The boys’ parents attempted to have their Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. policy pay to defend them against civil lawsuits and cover damages arising from their sons’ fatal sniper attack on tractor-trailers traveling along Interstate 40 traffic.

The parents claimed that the insurance policy should protect them because their sons said they did not intend to harm anyone. They also argued that each shooting was a separate incident.

A lower court said that the policy could be triggered to defend the parents since the boys meant no harm and did not expect someone would die.

But last week the appeals court overruled, finding that there was evidence that the boys knew some harm, that is damage to the trucks, would come from their shooting. Even if they did not know the consequences would be as serious as they ended up being, the injuries could have been “reasonably expected or intended,” the court ruled.

The insurance company did not contend that Will and Josh intended or expected that anyone would be injured by their shooting at the tractor-trailers. Rather, the insurers argued that when the boys shot, intending or expecting that there would be some, albeit minimal, property damage, but instead inflicted great bodily injury on traveling motorists, the subject exclusionary language was implicated.

The appeals court agreed with Metropolitan. The proof at the trial established that Will
and Josh intended or expected that some type of harm would result when they shot at trucks traveling on the interstate. “Will and Josh shot their rifles with the intent to do some harm; at a minimum, they intended to damage the trucks they struck. This being so, the fact that they caused harm of a different nature, e.g., bodily injuries, and of a much greater degree than they had intended, becomes irrelevant,” the court wrote.