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Alea London Limited v. Bono-Soltysiak Enterprises

186 S.W.3d 403 (2006)

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Alea London Limited v. Bono-Soltysiak Enterprises

Missouri Court of Appeals

186 S.W.3d 403 (2006)

Facts

Alea London Limited (plaintiff) issued a surplus-lines insurance policy to Bono-Soltysiak d/b/a Laclede Street Bar and Grill (Laclede Street) (defendant) on December 20, 2001. That day, Alea London faxed a binder to Laclede Street’s insurance broker containing the coverage amount, the premium, and the liability limits. The binder listed “excludes assault & battery” as the only condition. Laclede Street’s policy issued on January 16, 2002, but it was never delivered to Laclede Street. The policy issued for a restaurant that did not serve alcohol or have a dance floor, and it had an endorsement containing exclusions for assault and battery incidents and liquor liability cases. However, before the policy issued, a patron was killed during an altercation in Laclede Street’s parking lot. The patron’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Weger (defendants), sued Laclede Street for wrongful death in a state trial court, and Alea London agreed to defend Laclede Street. Shortly after, Alea London moved for declaratory judgment that the incident was not covered. The trial court denied Alea London’s motion, and the case proceeded to trial. At trial, Alea London presented evidence that the exclusions in the endorsement were typical. However, Laclede Street’s expert called the language draconian. In fact, Laclede Street subsequently purchased a surplus-line policy without the exclusions. Additionally, an insurance broker testified that because surplus-line policies do not follow general standards, they use several types of assault and battery exclusions, and the binder was ambiguous as to which exclusion would be included in the final policy. The trial court found in favor of Laclede Street and the Wegers, concluding that the binder was the operative insurance contract and could have only been governed by terms added by the issued policy if the terms were standard in the surplus-lines industry. Alea London appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cohen, J.)

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