Insurer Not Liable for Damages in Tennessee Sheriff Shooting

January 27, 2010

A Tennessee appellate court has ruled a county liability insurer doesn’t have to pay $5 million in damages won by the widow of a slain sheriff’s deputy in a wrongful death lawsuit over his shooting death.

The ruling by the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court finding that the exclusion in Scott County’s insurance policy for intentional or expected bodily injury applied to this case, thereby relieving the insurer of the damages.

The insurer, the Tennessee Risk Management Trust, paid for the defense of former Deputy Marty Carson but is not liable to pay the lawsuit damages because Sgt. Hubert “John-John” Yancey did not die in the line of duty but was intentionally killed.

Carson said he mistook Yancey for a suspect when he shot him during a 2003 raid on a methamphetamine lab. In that shooting, Carson went beyond his duties, according to the court.

“We do not disagree that the raid upon a meth lab was within the scope of Carson’s duties as an officer. However, that does not mean that any and all of Carson’s actions committed while the raid was happening automatically fall within the scope of his duties,” the court wrote.

The court said the actions of a law enforcement officer who intentionally shoots and kills his partner do not further his employer’s purposes. “Such an assertion would be bizarre,” said the justices.

The court said the exception to the bodily injury exclusion that Yancey attempted to rely upon was intended to apply to fact patterns quite different from the one in this case. Yancey was not the subject of an arrest or incarceration. Also the fact that Yancey prevailed in the federal trial only by convincing a federal court jury that Carson intentionally shot and killed Yancey further proves the exception to the bodily injury exclusion should not apply, the court added.

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