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Property Cas. Co. of MCA v. Conway

October 27, 1995

PROPERTY CASUALTY COMPANY OF MCA, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
KEVIN G. CONWAY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM AND NATURAL PARENT OF RYAN CONWAY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND YW/YMCA OF RIDGEWOOD, NEW JERSEY, A CHARITABLE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF RIDGEWOOD, NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.

Approved for Publication October 27, 1995.

Before Judges Havey, D'Annunzio and Conley. The opinion of the court was delivered by D'annunzio, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: D'annunzio

The opinion of the court was delivered by D'ANNUNZIO, J.A.D.

In 1991, Ryan Conway, then fifteen years of age, and a friend, P.V., intentionally damaged a building owned by the Board of Education of Ridgewood, New Jersey and leased to the YW/YMCA of Ridgewood, New Jersey (hereafter the Association). The Association used the building as a day-care center for children. The Board and the Association asserted separate claims for damages. Those claims involve Kevin Conway's vicarious liability as Ryan's father under N.J.S.A. 18A:37-3, which provides:

The parent or guardian of any minor who shall injure any public or nonpublic school property shall be liable for damages for the amount of the injury to be collected by the board of education of the district or the owner of the premises in any court of competent jurisdiction, together with costs of suit.

The issue is whether Kevin Conway's homeowner's insurance policy, issued by plaintiff, Property Casualty Company of MCA (hereafter PCC), provides coverage for the claims made under this statute. PCC commenced this declaratory judgment action to decide the issue, and the trial court resolved it in favor of the insurer. Kevin Conway appeals, and we reverse.

By way of background, we relate that the Association has filed a complaint seeking damages as a result of this incident. It alleges in count two that Kevin Conway is liable to it under N.J.S.A. 18A:37-3. In count three, the Association asserts a claim against Kevin Conway based on N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-15. This statute establishes parental liability for the acts of a minor child if the parent "fails or neglects to exercise reasonable supervision and control of the conduct of such infant . . . ." N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-15. PCC concedes coverage under its homeowner's policy for the Association's claim under Title 2A, but the insurer contests coverage for the vicarious liability claim under Title 18A. Kevin Conway paid the Board of Education for the damages it sustained. He filed a counterclaim in PCC's declaratory judgment action seeking reimbursement from PCC as well as a declaration that PCC must provide coverage for the vicarious liability claim asserted by the Association.

The trial court determined that PCC's policy does not cover the claim asserted under the vicarious liability statute because Ryan's act of vandalism was an intentional act and, therefore, it was not an "occurrence" within the meaning of the policy.

PCC issued the policy to Kevin and Patricia Conway. Ryan Conway fell within the policy's definition of an insured because he was a resident of the household and a relative of the named insureds. The parties agree that Ryan is not covered for these claims because he committed intentional acts of vandalism.

The policy provides liability coverage, in the following language:

If a claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage caused by an occurrence to which this coverage applies, we will:

1. Pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which the insured is legally liable;

The definition portion of the policy defines occurrence as "an accident, including exposure to conditions, which results, during the policy period, ...


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