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Crossan v. Travelers Commercial Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

March 10, 2015

CHARLES J. CROSSAN, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVELERS COMMERCIAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER

Jan R. Jurden, President Judge

Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the record in this case, and relevant case law, it appears that:

1. Charles J. Crossan ("Plaintiff") filed a Declaratory Judgment Complaint against Travelers Commercial Insurance Company ("Travelers") seeking a declaration that Travelers is obligated to provide homeowner's insurance coverage under Anthony and Melissa Chambers' ("the Chambers") homeowner's insurance policy.[1]

2. Plaintiff alleges that on May 23, 2010, while assisting in the construction of a garage located on the Chambers' property, he fell from scaffolding and sustained personal injuries.[2] At the time of the accident, the Chambers were covered persons under a homeowner's insurance policy with Travelers ("the Policy").[3]

3. On March 4, 2011, Plaintiff filed a petition against Apex Contracting ("Apex") with the Industrial Accident Board ("IAB") seeking to recover workers' compensation benefits for the injuries he sustained on May 23, 2010.[4] Anthony Chambers owned Apex. [5] The IAB determined that Plaintiff's injuries are compensable under workers' compensation law and awarded payment of Plaintiff's outstanding medical bills and reasonable attorney fees.[6]

4. On January 2, 2013, Plaintiff sued the Chambers' individually alleging that on May 23, 2010, the Chambers' did not have workers' compensation insurance coverage and, as a result of the Chambers' failure to have workers' compensation insurance, they were strictly liable to Plaintiff for his injuries and damages.[7]

5. Travelers denied coverage for Plaintiff's personal injury claims under the Chambers' homeowner's insurance policy because of a policy exclusion for injuries covered by workers' compensation law.[8] The policy excludes personal liability coverage for bodily injury to any person eligible to receive benefits voluntarily provided or required to be provided under any workers' compensation law.[9]

6. On April 25, 2013, the Chambers' assigned their complete interest in their homeowner's insurance policy to Plaintiff.[10] On June 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant declaratory judgment action against Travelers.[11]

7. Under Delaware law, "[t]he scope of an insurance policy's coverage obligation is prescribed by the language of the policy."[12] If the relevant contract language is clear and unambiguous, courts must give the language its plain meaning.[13] "If ambiguity exists in the contract, it is construed strongly against the insurer, and in favor of the insured, because the insurer drafted the language that is interpreted." [14] The Supreme Court of Delaware has explained that insurance contracts "must be interpreted in a common sense manner, giving effect to all provisions so that a reasonable policyholder can understand the scope and limitation of coverage."[15]

8. Plaintiff is seeking a declaration that he is entitled to coverage under the Policy. In a section titled "Exclusions, " the Policy states in relevant part:

C. Coverage E – Personal Liability
Coverage E does not apply to:
4. "Bodily injury" to any person eligible to receive any benefits voluntarily provided or required to be ...

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