A dispute over insurance coverage has developed between a Florida homeowners’ association (HOA) and its insurer after the mother of slain 17 year-old Trayvon Martin claimed compensation for the death of her son. Martin was shot and killed by a resident in the neighborhood represented by the HOA. The insurance company filed a declaratory action in an Orlando federal court asking the court to declare that it is not responsible for covering the HOA on the mother’s claim.
The Trayvon Martin case has become well-known and highly controversial. Martin was visiting his father, who lived in a gated community in Sanford. The teenager was allegedly walking home from the store on the night of February 26, 2012, when he was shot and killed by 28 year-old George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed that he acted in self-defense. Martin’s family says that Zimmerman singled their son out because he was African-American, followed him through the neighborhood, and incited an altercation. Police arrested Zimmerman forty-four days after Martin’s death and charged him with second-degree murder. Zimmerman has entered a plea of not guilty and is out of jail with a $1 million bond.
Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, filed a claim with Travelers Insurance, which covers the Retreat at Twin Lakes HOA. She requested in excess of $75,000 in damages for Martin’s death. She also filed a claim with the Florida Bureau of Victim Compensation, and was approved in March for a payment from the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund. Her claim to Travelers drew a quick response.
Travelers filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief in the Orlando Division of the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, naming both the HOA and Fulton as defendants. It requested a declaration from the court that it is not obligated to indemnify or defend the HOA against a claim by Fulton. The company states that it is “in doubt of its rights” under the HOA’s policy, so it is seeking the court’s clarification. According to Travelers petition, the HOA obtained a “Non-Profit Management And Organization Liability insurance policy” from the company on March 30, 2012, more than a month after Martin’s death. The policy is reportedly effective for one year, terminating on March 30, 2013.
Travelers claims that the definition of “Wrongful Acts” contained in the policy does not include the acts involved in Fulton’s claim. Exemptions from coverage in the HOA’s policy, according to the lawsuit, release Travelers from any liability under the insurance policy. These reportedly include an exemption for various personal injuries, including bodily injury, mental anguish, or death, except as relates to a “Claim for Wrongful Employment Practices.” Travelers therefore argues that it is not responsible for defending or indemnifying the HOA because Fulton’s claim is not covered by its policy, and because the incident occurred outside of the coverage period.
The attorneys at Cohn & Smith help recover compensation for people in South Florida who have suffered injuries due to hazardous conditions or inadequate security on someone’s property. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us today online, or by calling us at (954) 431-8100, or (305) 624-9186.
Petition for Declaratory Relief (PDF), Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America v. The Retreat at Twin Lakes Homeowners Assoc., et al, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, August 1, 2012
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