Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Frozen Turkey Thrown by Teenager Causes Severe Damage to Passenger and Vehicle

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Although this isn't a happy holiday type story, it definately ties insurance and Thanksgiving together. Check out this article by Laurie Infantino about property damage and bodily injury caused by a Thankgiving turkey.
Written By:

Laurie Infantino, AFIS, CISC, CIC, ACSR, CISR, CRIS

President of Insurance Community Center

I saw the story on TV recently and my first thought was thank goodness this was not my son who threw the turkey. It is only because he had other mischievous plots in mind. The incident occurred on Long Island in Lake Ronkonkoma on November 13, 2004. The injured woman has just published a book on the accident titled, No Room for Vengeance, and has been featured on several talk shows. FOX News said the release of Ruvolo’s book comes just after a similar shocking story made news around the country, in which Manhattan mother Marion Hedges was severely injured after kids pushed a shopping cart off of a fourth floor walkway onto the ground below. It landed on Hedges.
The accident that injured Victoria Ruvolo occurred when a 20 pound turkey was thrown out of a moving car and smashed into her windshield. The driver was struck and immediately lost consciousness. Were it not for her friend, in the passenger seat, leaning over and grabbing the steering wheel, who knows how many people might have been killed. Ruvolo sustained serious injuries and required hospitalization for three months.

Police say they had pictures of the assailants, five teenagers caught on store surveillance tape buying the turkey at a supermarket. They bought the turkey with a stolen credit card. This was a somewhat unique set of circumstances. The driver was 19 years old. Too often these crimes go un-solved as people throw items from freeway overpasses, shot paint bombs or spray paint from guns blinding passengers and other such mischief.

This case was different, the five teenagers were arrested. The driver was arrested on charges of first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, forgery, criminal mischief and criminal possession of stolen property. The four other teenagers were charged with criminal possession of stolen property. A wonderful side note to this story is that Victoria received the Most Inspiring Person of 2005 from BeliefNet because of her appealing to the judge to NOT send the assailant away to serve a 20 year sentence. She insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for five years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.
Now to the question of the hour—is this covered by insurance. We might try looking at the Homeowners Policy first but will not find coverage there for a loss that occurs from the ownership of usage of a vehicle. So now we look at the Personal Auto Policy and surprise—surprise. The policy states:

We do not provide Liability Coverage for any "insured":

1. Who intentionally causes "bodily injury" or "property damage".

The question will be did they “intend” to hurt someone by throwing the turkey or did they just throw the turkey as a prank. Courts will look very strongly at the “intent” of the act and in most cases will determine that it was not an “intentional” bodily injury. Clearly if the PAP responds in the manner we will look to our umbrella for excess limits. What is interesting is that the PAP appears to have a much broader response then the most current edition dates on the Homeowners Policy. Here is an example of the language the ISO 2000 edition contains:

E.1. Expected or Intended Injury “Bodily injury” or “property damage” which is expected or intended by an “insured” even if the resulting “bodily injury” or “property damage”:

a. Is of a different kind, quality or degree than initially expected or intended; or

b. Is sustained by a different person, entity, real or personal property, than initially expected or intended.

Questions about points discussed in this article? Tague Alliance can help answer any questions you may have, about this article, or about becoming an Independent Agent with SIAA.  Call the office at (760) 729-1143, or email at