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Haynes v. American Casualty Co.

Decided: April 19, 1962.

HAYNES, INDIVIDUALLY AND TRADING AS JOPPA CONTRACTOR
v.
AMERICAN CASUALTY COMPANY



Appeal from the Superior Court of Baltimore City; Prendergast, J.

Henderson, Hammond, Prescott, Horney and Sybert, JJ. Sybert, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Sybert

This appeal questions the construction given by the trial court to the term "caused by accident" in an insurance policy.

The case was submitted below upon a stipulation of facts. The appellant, Mack C. Haynes, individually and trading as Joppa Contractor (plaintiff below), had purchased a manufacturer's and contractor's liability policy from the appellee, American Casualty Company (defendant below), to cover against accident in his excavating operations. The policy includes:

"Coverage B -- Property Damage Liability: To pay on behalf of the insured all sums which the insured shall become legally obligated to pay as damages because of injury to or destruction of property, including the loss of use thereof, caused by accident and arising out of the hazards hereinafter defined.

"Definition of Hazards

"Division 1 -- Premises -- Operations. The ownership, maintenance or use of premises, and all operations." (Emphasis supplied.)

During excavation work in Baltimore County, appellant pointed out to his employees the property line within which the work was to be done and then left them for several hours. Upon his return he found they had encroached on adjacent property and cut down 48 trees. When the landowners sued appellant for the resulting damage, the appellee at first undertook to defend the action, but later denied liability under the policy. Appellant then engaged counsel and at the subsequent trial judgment was rendered against him for $1,648,

with interest and costs. When the appellee refused to pay the judgment and expenses of the suit, the instant action was filed by the appellant against the insurance company, seeking damages for breach of contract by appellee in not paying the judgment and suit expenses (first count); reimbursement for the fee incurred for private counsel in defending the landowners' suit (second count); payment of counsel fees to be incurred in the instant action (third count); and damages because appellant's bank account had been attached after appellee refused to pay the landowners' judgment (fourth count). Appellant filed a motion for summary judgment in his favor on the first and second counts and on the issue of liability under the third count, which was denied by the trial court.

On the merits the trial court found for the insurer, holding that "since the employees of the plaintiff intended to cut the trees which they did cut, the result was neither unusual nor unexpected * * *" and therefore did not come within the meaning of the clause "caused by accident" in the policy. From the judgment entered for appellee upon that finding, appellant brought this appeal, thus requiring a determination of whether the cutting of the trees on the land of another through the inadvertent act of the appellant's employees constituted injury "caused by accident" within the meaning and terms of the policy.

The parties take the following positions: The insurer says the act of the insured's employees in cutting the trees on the land of another was voluntary and intentional and the damage was the natural result of the act. Thus, it claims, even though the result may have been unforeseen and unintended, there is no coverage under the policy for damage caused by the mistake or error of the insured's employees. The insured, on the other hand, in addition to arguing that the contract when read as a whole provides coverage, also contends that the more modern view of a majority of the jurisdictions is to reject any distinction between the terms "accidental means" and "accidental result", so that when an intentional or ...


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