Judge says insurer can't avoid covering Jupiter shopping center owner in stabbing in bar parking lot

By Florida Record | Apr 25, 2019

Clinton & Charles Robertson from RAF Lakenheath, UK; San Marcos, TX, USA & UK [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

WEST PALM BEACH —  An insurer can't easily escape a lawsuit brought by a man who claimed the owners of a Jupiter shopping center owe him money after he was stabbed during a fight in a parking lot outside a bar and grill in the shopping center.

A West Palm Beach federal judge has refused the request by Mt. Hawley Insurance Company for a judgment finding they have no obligation to pay to defend the owners of Jupiter West Plaza against the lawsuit brought by Leslie Frye II, who claimed he was stabbed during a fight outside Uncle Mick's Bar and Grill, a tenant in the Jupiter West Plaza.

Judge Kenneth Marra, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, ruled April 12 in the matter. 

The case stems from an insurance dispute that arose after a fight between Frye and another man, identified, as Paul Clearly, in the parking lot of Uncle Mick's and resulted in Frye being stabbed.  Frye filed suit against the Jupiter West Plaza owners, who are insured by Mt. Hawley. Mt. Hawley attempted to hand off the defense to Uncle Mick's commercial general liability insurer, Conifer Insurance Company, which then rejected it. 

Mt. Hawley argues it "has no duty to defend" or compensate the defendants' claims because they "failed to satisfy a condition precedent to coverage" according to the policy, while the defendants argued the condition precedent is "an exclusion to coverage." Mt. Hawley also argues Frye's claims stem from Uncle Mick's occupation or use of the leased premises. 

The defendants note that the fight did not occur in Uncle Mick's, start in the bar or involve one of its employees and that Frye was attacked in "an area not controlled" by Uncle Mick's.

Judge Marra concluded "Mt. Hawley is not entitled to a declaratory judgment that there is no coverage under the policy for the claims asserted by Frye in the underlying liability action." 

The court granted the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment for declaratory relief and denied Mt. Hawley's motion, stating: "Mt. Hawley has a continuing duty to defend the claims against the policy holders set forth in the underlying complaint."

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