High court limits insurance payout from fatal shooting

The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a company which insured the Juneau residents who owned the home where a teenager was killed and another was seriously injured.

Justices issued the decision on Friday which determined that the United Services Automobile Association only had to pay the maximum of $300,000 for a single occurrence, not multiple payouts for multiple occurrences.

Kevin Michaud pulled the trigger on the revolver that he took from his father’s gun cabinet. The bullet passed through Aiden Neary, killing him, and lodged in the spine of Chase Schneider.

Neary’s parents sued the Michauds, and the Nearys and Schnieder’s parents sued USAA. They claimed negligence and negligent infliction of emotional stress. In turn, USAA sought judgment limiting coverage to a maximum of $300,000 for a single, per occurrence policy limit for all claims against the three insureds: Kevin, Michael, and Michelle Michaud. The Michauds, in turn, argued that each of them were entitled to a separate coverage limit of $300,000, and for multiple occurrences.

In an opinion written by recently seated Justice Peter Maassen, the Supreme Court determined there was only a single occurrence with a single gunshot. It does not include multiple effects of injury to both parents of both boys, nor does it include acts of negligence that preceded the gun shot. Justices interpreted the insurance policy as having no ambiguous provisions that would indicate that each occurrence could be increased according to the number of insureds, claims made, or persons injured.

The opinion overturns an earlier Superior court ruling that held there was a single occurrence, but in which each of the three Michauds were entitled to a separate coverage limit of $300,000, or $900,000 total.