As we have previously written, students accused of hazing can obtain coverage under a parent’s homeowners’ policy. See our prior post. A recent New York decision provides the latest example.
That case arises out of the tragic death of Michael Deng at a house in the Pennsylvania Poconos that fraternity members had rented for the weekend. Several fraternity members, including Julio Hewu, were sued in a wrongful death action. Hewu’s father had a homeowners’ policy with Adirondack Insurance Exchange and an umbrella policy with GEICO. Hewu qualified as an insured under those policies. Adirondack and GEICO filed suit and moved for a ruling that they had no duty to defend or indemnify Hewu in the wrongful death suit.
The court denied the motions, finding that it could not rule as a matter of law that Hewu was not entitled to a defense. The court first found that hazing was physical abuse, coverage for which the policies excluded. Thus, if Hewu was involved in the actual hazing, the court said there would be no coverage. But, the wrongful death action also contained claims for negligently failing to obtain medical care. And, the complaint in the wrongful death action was too vague for the court to determine whether Hewu was involved in the actual hazing or was only involved in the failure to obtain medical care. So, under the broad duty to defend standard, the court was unable to conclude that there was no potential for coverage.