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Perry v. Hartford Underwriters Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

June 3, 2015

CLARENCE PERRY, Plaintiff,
v.
HARTFORD UNDERWRITERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

Submitted: May 4, 2015

Upon Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment – GRANTED

The Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli

This matter involves a dispute over insurance coverage between Plaintiff, Clarence Perry, and Defendant, Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company ("Hartford"). Upon consideration of Hartford's motion for summary judgment and Perry's opposition thereto, the Court makes the following findings:

1. In March 2007, Perry was insured under a personal homeowners insurance policy issued by Hartford. The policy identified 1017 East 13th Street, Wilmington, Delaware as Perry's residence.
2. Perry owned and operated a business, Perry Trucking, LLC, from his residence. Perry did not have a commercial insurance policy with Hartford or any other insurance company to insure the business activities of Perry Trucking or losses associated with the business.
3. Perry employed Robert White as a truck driver. If assigned a job, White used the Perry Trucking dump truck. Although White had a key for the truck, he did not have permission to use the truck for other purposes.
4. Around 6 o'clock in the morning on March 17, 2007, Perry noticed the Perry Trucking dump truck was not parked in front of his residence. Perry had not assigned White a job for March 17. When Perry confronted White about the missing truck, White admitted that White was using the Perry Trucking dump truck to complete a job unaffiliated with Perry Trucking. When White returned the Perry Trucking dump truck to Perry's residence on March 17, Perry fired White and attempted to give White his final paycheck. At this point, Perry and White had a verbal and physical altercation.
5. Perry faced criminal charges for assaulting White. On May 2, 2007, Perry pled guilty to Assault Third Degree, admitting that he "intentionally or recklessly cause[d] physical injury to another person."[1]
6. Anticipating a civil lawsuit, on September 17, 2008, Perry submitted a claim with Hartford under Perry's homeowner's policy. Perry recited the facts of the March 17 altercation and provided Hartford with a copy of the criminal complaint against Perry alleging assault and battery against White. On September 25, 2008, Hartford denied Perry's claim for coverage on several grounds, including an exclusion for business activity. Specifically, Hartford claimed that the personal injury suffered by White arose out of dispute related to Perry's trucking business and was therefore not covered by Perry's homeowner's policy.
7. On October 29, 2008, White filed a civil action against Perry and Perry Trucking alleging intentional and negligent conduct.[2] After a two-day trial, a jury found in favor of White and entered a verdict against Perry and Perry Trucking for $64, 100.00. The jury rejected Perry's self-defense claim.
8. On October 18, 2013, Perry filed this insurance coverage dispute, claiming Hartford failed to defend and indemnify Perry in connection with the 2008 civil claim by White. On February 18, 2014, Hartford filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which the Court denied on March 12, 2014.
9. On March 30, 2015, after discovery was completed, Hartford filed the pending motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the policy excludes coverage for White's claim against Perry. According to Hartford, the policy does not provide coverage for Perry's conduct in the March 17 altercation for several reasons, including an exclusion that applies because Perry's liability arose from operating a business.[3]
10. In opposition, Perry maintains that there are genuine issues of material fact which defeat summary judgment. Perry contends that the trier of fact must consider the nature of the personal relationship between the parties and the circumstances that gave rise to the March 17 altercation. Specifically, Perry ...

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