Insurer Has No Duty To Defend Bar In Suit Over Bouncer Fight

An insurer had no duty to defend a bar against a lawsuit based on an alleged fight between a patron and bouncers, a federal court in Illinois ruled. The case is Century Surety Co. v. John B., Inc., 2006 WL 140551 (N.D. Ill. January 17, 2006). Despite claims of negligence and negligent supervision in the underlying lawsuit, the court held that the gravamen of all the claims was assault, which was excluded from coverage by the bar’s liability policy. The decision was more favorable to the insurer than many similar cases in Oregon, where allegations of negligence or vicarious liability, or the doctrine of “lesser-included tort,” are often considered to create a duty to defend.
The word “gravamen,” by the way, is highly favored in insurance coverage jargon, and means the material part of a grievance or complaint. It comes from a Latin root meaning “to burden,” and is just plain fun to say. Try it sometime.

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