A Markel Corp. unit does not have to defend or indemnify a motorcycle club in connection with a shooting death that occurred at its fish fry, a federal appeals court said Monday, in affirming a lower court ruling.
Arthur Murphy Jr. became engaged in “a verbal confrontation” with another unidentified attendee at a Soul Brothers motorbike club event/reunion fish fry, according to the complaint in Evanston Insurance Co. v. Tracee Portee Murphy and Cherelle Murphy; et al.
The attendee had allegedly brought a semiautomatic weapon to the event, and shot Mr. Murphy, who later died. Soul Brothers’ business manager had purchased a commercial general liability policy issued by Markel unit Evanston Insurance Co.
After Mr. Murphy’s family filed wrongful death litigation, Evanston filed suit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, seeking a declaratory judgment it had no obligation to defend or indemnify under its coverage.
The district court ruled in the insurer’s favor and was affirmed by a three-judge appeals court panel.
The policy included an assault or battery exclusion, the ruling said. The defendant argues that Evanston cannot rely on the exclusion under Arizona law in certain limited situations, including one where the insurer created “an objective impression of coverage in the mind of a reasonable insured.”
“The $2 million policy limit does not suggest to a reasonable insured that assault and battery would be included where the policy covered a large three-day event in downtown Phoenix,” the decision said.
“Nor does a website’s advertisement of ‘superior coverage,’ by the broker through which the insured bought the policy, convey a message about any particular kind of coverage or exclusion,” the panel said, in concluding the exclusion applied and affirming the lower court ruling.
Attorneys in the case had no comment or did not respond to a request for comment.