State Bancorp, Inc. v. U.S. Fidelity and Guar

In State Bancorp, Inc. v. U.S. Fidelity and Guar., 199 W.Va. 99, 483 S.E.2d 228 (1997), the insureds' policies obligated the insurers to pay damages because of "bodily injury" or "property damage" which was caused by an "occurrence" during the policy period. 199 W.Va. at 103, 483 S.E.2d at 232. An "occurrence was defined as "an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions." Id. The question before the Court was whether the allegations in the subject complaint were reasonably susceptible of an interpretation that the claim may be covered by the terms of the insurance policy. The complaint alleged the tort of outrage, breach of contract, the tort of civil conspiracy, and violation of state banking laws. Even though the word "accident" was not defined in the policies, the Court noted that, Ordinarily, "accident" is defined as "an event occurring by chance or arising from unknown causes." Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary 7 (1981). As one court has explained, an 'accident' generally means an unusual, unexpected and unforeseen event. . . . An accident is never present when a deliberate act is performed unless some additional unexpected, independent and unforeseen happening occurs which produces the damage. . . . To be an accident, both the means and the result must be unforeseen, involuntary, unexpected, and unusual. (199 W.Va. at 105, 483 S.E.2d at 234.) After applying this definition of "accident" to the allegations in the complaint, we concluded that "a breach of contract which causes 'bodily injury' or 'property damage' is not an event that occurs by chance or arises from unknown causes, and, therefore, is not an 'occurrence.'" Id. In State Bancorp, the Court determined that the facts alleged in the complaint which formed the basis of the tort of civil conspiracy were actions intended by the insured and therefore did not meet the definition of occurrence under the policy at issue. The Court quoted with approval Fibreboard Corp. v. Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co., 16 Cal.App.4th 492, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 376, 387 (1993), in which it was opined that "there is a conscious, decisionmaking element that takes civil conspiracies out of the range of behavior encompassed within the meaning of an 'occurrence.'" State Bancorp, 199 W.Va. at 106-107, 483 S.E.2d at 235-236.