VOLUNTARY INTOXICATION DOES NOT RENDER SEXUAL ASSAULT AN ACCIDENT FOR PURPOSES OF LIABILITY COVERAGE
The Beaumont Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court judgment in favor of USAA finding that voluntary intoxication does not render sexual assault an “accident” as needed to trigger coverage under a homeowners policy. In Bishop v. USAA Texas Lloyd's Co., 09-14-00445-CV, 2016 WL 423564, (Tex. App.—Beaumont Feb. 4, 2016), USAA denied defense of its insured for a lawsuit against him alleging negligence and an intentional/offensive touching of his stepdaughters. After the incident, the stepdaughters sued Gates—the USAA insured. USAA informed Gates that his insurance policy did not cover defense or indemnity for the underlying lawsuit because at the time of the offensive touching, his stepdaughters were insureds living at his house and that intentional conduct was not covered by the policy.
The stepdaughters obtained a default judgment against Gates, and in their subsequent petition against USAA, the stepdaughters alleged Gates did not “intend” to touch either of them in an offensive manner because the night of the assault Gates had taken Ambien with alcohol.
At trial, the USAA representative testified the stepdaughters were considered insureds because they resided in the home with their mother who was married to Gates at the time of the assault. The representative further testified that consuming Ambien and alcohol is an intentional act. Although the policy covers negligence claims, intentional acts are not covered; thus, USAA declined to defend Gates’s intentional actions. Gates’s insurance policy covered claims against an insured for damages because of bodily injury caused by a covered occurrence. The policy defined “occurrence” as an “accident” during the policy period that resulted in bodily injury or property damage. The policy excluded coverage for bodily injury “caused by the intentional or purposeful acts of any insured, including conduct that would reasonably be expected to result in bodily injury to any person....”
The trial court heard testimony suggesting that Gates was not intoxicated on the night of the assaults, which indicated that Gates intentionally assaulted the stepdaughters. The stepdaughters also alleged that at some point during the proceedings against him, Gates claimed he intended no harm and had ingested Ambien and alcohol before the assaults. Nevertheless, the Court noted a criminal assault is an intentional act and voluntary intoxication does not negate the intent or knowledge elements of criminal conduct. Accordingly, the court of appeals found the trial court reasonably concluded that Gates committed the intentional act of sexual assault and that his intent was not negated by any voluntary consumption of alcohol and Ambien. The evidence thus supported the finding that Gates’s intentional conduct was not an “accident” and, consequently, not an occurrence under the policy, regardless of whether he intended or expected to cause harm.