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Electric Insurance Company and v. Estate of Teddy Marcantonis By Dina Marcantonis

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY


December 22, 2010

ELECTRIC INSURANCE COMPANY AND
UNITED STATES LIABILITY INSURANCE COMPANY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ESTATE OF TEDDY MARCANTONIS BY DINA MARCANTONIS
A/K/A KONSTANDINA MARCANTONIS, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

Plaintiffs Electric Insurance Company ("EIC") and United States Liability Insurance Company ("USLI") seek a declaration of no coverage under the insurance policies issued to Teddy Marcantonis ("Marcantonis"). Pending before the Court are EIC's and USLI's Motions for Summary Judgment.

I.

This declaratory judgment action arises out of events that occurred in the early morning hours of December 9, 2008 when Marcantonis drove to his former girlfriend's farm, broke through the front door of the residence with a sledgehammer, and, using both a handgun and shotgun, killed her lover, Joseph Martorana. (EIC's 56.1 Stat. ¶¶ 8, 10.)*fn1 Marcantonis then committed suicide by setting himself on fire in his car, which was parked in the bushes of his former girlfriend's farm. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 14.)

EIC issued a homeowner's insurance policy (the "EIC Policy") to Marcantonis effective from July 19, 2008 through July 19, 2009. (Id. ¶ 12.) Pursuant to the EIC Policy, EIC has an obligation to defend the Marcantonis Estate for losses during the policy period caused by "occurrences" not otherwise excluded as an expected or intended injury. (EIC Br. in Support at 12.) The term "occurrence" is defined under the EIC policy as: "an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions" resulting in either bodily injury or property damage. (Id. at 15.)

USLI issued to Marcantonis personal umbrella excess liability coverage in the amount of $1,000,000 over and above the primary liability insurance policy provided by EIC (the "USLI Policy"), effective from July 19, 2008 through July 19, 2009. (USLI's 56.1 Stat. ¶¶ 18-19.) Pursuant to the USLI Policy, USLI will pay damages for a "loss," defined as "[a]n accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions" resulting in bodily injury or property damage, not otherwise excluded as an expected or intended injury.*fn2 (USLI Br. in SupportEx. A.)

Theresa Williamson, Executrix of the Estate of Joseph Martorana, filed a wrongful death and survivorship action against the Estate of Teddy Marcantonis in New Jersey state court, Cumberland County, on July 28, 2009 (the "Martorana Litigation").*fn3 (EIC's 56.1 Stat. ¶ 1.) EIC reserved its rights under the policy and agreed to reimburse costs incurred by counsel for the Marcantonis Estate in defending the Martorana Litigation while also pursuing a declaratory judgment action regarding its rights and obligations under the EIC Policy. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.)

On October 2, 2009, EIC filed the instant action seeking a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify the Marcantonis Estate and reimbursement of all costs and expenses paid in connection with the defense of the Martorana Litigation.

USLI disclaimed coverage under the USLI Policy for the Martorana Litigation in a letter dated December 11, 2009. (USLI's 56.1 Stat. ¶ 26.) On March 9, 2010, USLI filed an Intervenor Complaint in this action seeking a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify the Marcantonis Estate and that Defendant has no entitlement to the excess liability coverage in the USLI Policy.

EIC and USLI filed their Motions for Summary Judgment on October 8, 2010, and October 27, 2010, respectively.

II.

"[S]ummary judgment is proper 'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). "'With respect to an issue on which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof, the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing'-- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'" Conoshenti v. Public Serv. Elec. & Gas, 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). The role of the Court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

III.

EIC and USLI seek a declaration of their rights and obligations under the insurance policies issued to Marcantonis with respect to the murder of Martorana. Although the EIC Policy covers "occurrences" and the USLI Policy covers "losses," both define these terms as "accidents" resulting in bodily harm.*fn4

Therefore, the precise issue before the Court is whether Marcantonis' acts in the early morning hours of December 9, 2008 constitute an accident within the meaning of the EIC and USLI Policies.

In construing insurance policies which limit coverage to accidents, New Jersey courts look to whether "the alleged wrongdoer intended or expected to cause an injury. If not, then the resulting injury is 'accidental,' even if the act that caused the injury was intentional." Voorhees v. Preferred Mutual Ins. Co., 128 N.J. 165, 183 (1992). While this analysis often requires an inquiry into the actor's subjective intent, "[w]hen the actions are particularly reprehensible, the intent to injure can be presumed from the act without an inquiry into the actor's subjective intent to injury." Id. at 184. This "objective approach focuses on the likelihood that an injury will result from an actor's behavior rather than on the wrongdoer's subjective state of mind." Id.

Defendant opposes the Summary Judgment Motions of both EIC and USLI, arguing that its psychiatric expert report creates a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Marcantonis' acts were intentional. Defendant's psychiatric expert, Dr. Schnaidman, concluded that Marcantonis was suffering from a significant psychiatric disorder which deprived him of the ability to govern his conduct in accordance with reason.*fn5 Based on the expert's "psychological autopsy," Defendant further argues that Marcantonis' acts were not intentional and therefore are covered under both policies as accidents.*fn6

There is simply no reasonable way that one could argue that Mr. Marcantonis's acts on the night of December 8th to 9th of 2008 were anything but the product of his abnormal mental state at that time. For anyone trained in psychiatry to suggest otherwise is simply a blatant disregard of the entire field of psychiatry. (Fischer Cert. Ex. A at 9.)

EIC and USIL argue that Schnaidman's report is unsupported by factual evidence and therefore insufficient to defeat summary judgment. EIC and USIL further argue that the murder of Martorana is not an occurrence or a loss and therefore is excluded from coverage under both policies.

For the purposes of the instant Motions for Summary Judgment, the Court finds the expert report insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact, as it is conclusory and unsupported by the record. Schnaidman points to no facts other than the murder itself to support her conclusion that Marcantonis suffered from a derangement of his intellect.*fn7 In fact, Schnaidman acknowledges that Marcanontis' medical records from his psychiatrist, psychologist, and physician evidence no history or symptoms of a serious psychiatric disorder.*fn8 (Fischer Cert.Ex. A at 4.) Marcantonis' last medical examination on August 28, 2008 was normal and he reported that he "never felt better." (EIC's 56.1 Stat. ¶ 36.) Moreover, there is no indication that Marcantonis was suffering from a derangement of intellect immediately prior to the murder. The evidence establishes that on the evening of the murder by all accounts Marcantonis appeared normal, spending time with his friends and daughter at the Neptune Diner, as was his custom. (Id. ¶ 25.) Furthermore, Schnaidman's conclusion is at odds with the undisputed circumstances of the murder, which was carefully planned and executed.*fn9

The fact that Marcantonis committed murder and suicide alone is insufficient to support a conclusion that he had a serious psychiatric disorder that deprived him of the capacity to govern his conduct in accordance with reason. See Cumberland Mutual Fire Ins. Co. v. Dahl, 362 N.J. Super. 91, 101 (App. Div. 2003), cert. denied, 178 N.J. 250 (2003)(noting that most intentionally committed criminal conduct is done by actors whose judgment is clouded by some mental condition and holding that this alone does not deprive the actor of the ability to act intentionally). The record simply does not support Schnaidman's conclusion that Marcantonis was suffering from a serious psychological disorder, which deprived him of the ability to act in accordance with reason at the time of Martorana's murder.

Instead, the record in this case clearly establishes that Marcantonis carefully planned and carried out the murder of Martorana. See supra note 9. Because the Court finds that Marcantonis intended to kill Martorana, EIC and USIL are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

This case presents a fact pattern similar to that in Dahl, in which the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, held that an insurance policy excluded coverage for a premeditated, carefully planned murder. 362 N.J. Super. at 101. In Dahl, an estranged husband shot and killed his wife's boyfriend and then committed suicide. Id. at 93. He planned the murder and made multiple threats to carry it out. Id. at 95. On the evening of the murder, he drove to his wife's home where she lived with her boyfriend and parked his car a block away. Id. He broke in the back door and shot the boyfriend with a gun he had borrowed from a friend and then shot himself. Id.

The Dahl court rejected the expert's conclusion that the insured was acting on an irrational impulse precipitated by mental illness as evidenced by the insured's diary entries and suicide note. Id. at 99. Rather, the court held that the carefully planned murder was intentional and therefore outside the scope of the insurance policy.*fn10 Id. at 101.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Defendant, no reasonable fact-finder could conclude that Marcantonis did not intend or expect to cause an injury to Martorana. Indeed, Marcantonis' acts in the early morning hours of December 9, 2008 were particularly reprehensible so as to support an intent to injure absent an inquiry into Marcantonis' subjective intent.*fn11 See Harleysville Ins. Cos. v. Garitta, 170 N.J. 223, 235 (2001)(holding that death was an inherently probable consequence of thrusting knife twice into victim's torso and presuming as a matter of law the intent to injure).

Marcantonis' acts were not accidents within the meaning of the EIC and USIL Policies.*fn12 Therefore, EIC and USIL have no obligation to defend or indemnify Defendant in the Martorana Litigation and Defendant has no entitlement to the coverage in the insurance policies.*fn13 Accordingly, summary judgment will be granted in favor of EIC and USIL.

IV.

For the reasons stated above, EIC's and USIL's Motions for Summary Judgment will be granted. An appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.

JOSEPH E. IRENAS, S.U.S.D.J.


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