Baber v. Fortner – Case Brief Summary (West Virginia)

In Baber v. Fortner, 186 W. Va. 413, 412 S.E.2d 814 (1991), the policyholder shot and killed his wife's boyfriend while the policyholder was sitting inside his automobile.

The policyholder contended that he acted in self-defense, claiming he saw a weapon in the boyfriend's hand; a jury rejected his contention and convicted him of voluntary manslaughter.

When the policyholder was sued for the boyfriend's wrongful death, the policyholder's automobile liability insurance company refused coverage, in part because of an intentional acts exclusion.

The policyholder in Baber argued that his voluntary manslaughter conviction was not a conclusive determination of his intent, but we disagreed.

The Court concluded that the policyholder's conviction "constituted a judicial rejection of his self-defense plea which precludes the assertion that his act was anything other than intentional." 186 W. Va. at 418, 412 S.E.2d at 819.

In other words, because of his criminal conviction the policyholder was collaterally estopped from claiming that his act and its consequences were anything but intentional.