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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Dropped After Maryland Federal Court Decision

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A Maryland court ruled that the language of an insurance policy specifically excluded wrongful death stemming from criminal conduct, according to an unpublished decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In terms of background, this case began in 2010 with the tragic death of a female college senior. On May 2nd that year, the victim’s boyfriend broke into the victim’s house in a drunken rage. The boyfriend attacked the victim viciously and repeatedly. Then he simply walked out the door and left the victim to die.

The next morning, several roommates began to panic when the victim was unresponsive. The roommates initially thought that the victim was unconscious. So they called for immediate medical assistance. First responders arrived on the scene and examined the victim. But they were too late. The victim was already dead.

The authorities brought criminal charges against the boyfriend. A jury found the boyfriend guilty of second-degree murder. The boyfriend received a sentence of 23 years in prison. An appellate court upheld the conviction. And the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the boyfriend’s case.

In addition to criminal proceedings, the victim’s mother filed a civil lawsuit against the boyfriend for wrongful death. The lawsuit contained four counts:

  • Count 1: Failure to use Ordinary Care;
  • Count 2: Indifference and Acting with Utter Disregard of Caution;
  • Count 3: Willful and Wanton Negligence; and
  • Count 4: Assault and Battery.

The victim’s mother sought $29.45 million in damages, reported The Daily Progress. But the civil lawsuit stalled when a challenge surfaced in federal court from an insurance company.

The boyfriend was covered for wrongful death under homeowners and excess liability policies. But the insurance company claimed that their policies excluded coverage for criminal acts. Consequently, the insurance company filed a challenge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

The District Court reviewed the language of an underlying insurance policy. Specifically, the District Court examined a provision that excluded coverage for criminal acts. Given that the boyfriend’s conviction for second-degree murder, the insurance policy did not apply.

After the conclusion of oral arguments, the Fourth Circuit confirmed the decision of the District Court. Specifically, the Fourth Circuit agreed that the insurance policy excluded coverage for criminal acts. As a result, the insurance company did not have to pay out on the wrongful death lawsuit.

The wrongful death lawsuit was set for trial in July. The trial was scheduled to last for three weeks. But in the aftermath of the Fourth Circuit’s decision, the victim’s mother decided to withdraw her lawsuit.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If your family member or loved one suffered wrongful death in Maryland, it can be distinctly helpful to contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. The lawyers at Iamele & Iamele, LLP in Baltimore, Maryland, have demonstrated experience in personal injury law, with a particular focus on wrongful death actions. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Resource:

isysweb.ca4.uscourts.gov/isysquery/db7cb89e-3f56-4d3a-89d2-6ab1fd47bb86/1/doc/#Entity_Location_2

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