Cincinnati Indemnity Co. v. Sw. Line Constructors Joint Apprenticeship & Training Program – 5/31/2018

June 12, 2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that an injury-causing event is a single “occurrence” when an insurance policy defines “occurrence” as an “accident,” even if multiple negligent acts lead up to the injury-causing event.

Apprentices in an electrical line maintenance training program were injured when they fell from a collapsing utility pole.  The apprentices sued the training program operator for negligence and settled their claims for the policy limits of the operator’s general liability policy.  The operator’s policy limited coverage to $1 million per “occurrence” and had an aggregate claims limit of $2 million.  The policy defined “occurrence” as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.”  The operator’s insurer sought a judgment declaring that both injuries were the result of a single “occurrence.”  The trial court agreed and granted the insurer summary judgment.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that the injuries both resulted from the same “accident”—the collapse of the utility pole—so there could be only one “occurrence.”  Because there was only one occurrence, the policy limits were $1 million.  The Court of Appeals rejected the apprentices’ argument that there were numerous “occurrences” because of several negligent acts that led to the collapse of the utility pole.  Earlier case law supporting the apprentices’ argument is not controlling because the policy language in the earlier case defined “occurrence” in relation to the number of incidents, acts, or omissions that result in an injury, not as “the accident” itself.

Judge Perkins authored the opinion; Judges Johnsen and Cattani joined.