Northfield Insurance Co. v. Loving Home Care, Inc.

363 F.3d 523 (2004)

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Northfield Insurance Co. v. Loving Home Care, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
363 F.3d 523 (2004)

Facts

Celia Giral provided nanny services on behalf of Loving Home Care, Inc. (LHC) (defendant) to the Barrows family. LHC was owned and operated by the Daniels (defendants). The Barrows’ infant daughter died after suffering skull fractures, brain hemorrhages, and bleeding behind her eyes after being in Giral’s care. An autopsy ruled the infant’s death a homicide, and Giral was convicted of injury to a child and sentenced to seven years in prison. The Barrows sued several parties, including LHC and the Daniels, for their daughter’s wrongful death, arguing both tort and negligence theories. At the time, LHC was covered by a two-part policy issued by Northfield Insurance Company (plaintiff), providing both commercial general liability (CGL) and commercial professional liability (CPL) coverage. The CGL portion covered bodily injury and property damage resulting from the operation of LHC, but it excluded professional services. The CPL portion covered damages resulting from negligent acts, errors, or omissions made during the rendition of the business’s professional services, but it excluded criminal acts and abuse. Northfield defended LHC and the Daniels under a reservation-of-rights letter and filed suit in federal district court for a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend or indemnify LHC or the Daniels given its policy’s exclusions. The district court initially granted Northfield’s motion for summary judgment in its entirety. Upon a request for reconsideration, the court concluded that the professional-services exclusion applied and excluded the nanny services from coverage only under the CGL portion of the policy. However, the court ordered that Northfield had a duty to defend LHC and the Daniels because the criminal acts and abuse exclusions did not preclude coverage under the CPL portion due to the negligence allegations. Northfield appealed, arguing that Giral’s conviction and the infant’s autopsy should have been considered when deciding its duty to defend.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (DeMoss, J.)

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