Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lloyd's of London Sues To Stop Payment on Wrongful Death of Uzi Wielding 8-Year Old

The Bad Lawyer wrote about this story's various twists and turns.  In sum, an 8-year old boy was at at a gun show with his dad, a physician.  The boy's father permitted the boy to handle and shoot a Uzi.  The child lost control of the weapon and accidentally shot himself in the head.   A wrongful death followed, now the club's insurer wants to deny coverage.  This is from Jessica Van Sack's article at the Boston Hearld website:

"Two years after an 8-year-old boy fatally shot himself at a gun show in western Massachusetts, an insurer for the Westfield Sportsman’s Club claims it isn’t obligated to pay a wrongful-death settlement to his family. A federal suit filed late last week by underwriters at Lloyd’s of London alleges the club’s policy doesn’t cover claims arising out of “criminal activity” - and also cites an exemption for all liability related to gun shows.  In October 2008, Christopher Bizilj of Ashford, Conn., was allowed to try out a fully automatic Micro Uzi machine pistol at the club’s annual Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo. As his father, Dr. Charles D. Bizilj, stood several feet away with a camera, Christopher lost control, fatally shooting himself in the head.

In March, officials from the club pleaded no contest in Hampden Superior Court to charges of involuntary manslaughter and of providing the boy a gun.  The Bizilj family filed a $4 million wrongful-death suit in November, alleging that the machine gun jammed twice, was defective and inspected by an unqualified 15-year-old before the child attempted to fire it.

The Lloyd’s suit claims the club’s policy excludes coverage for bodily injury arising out of  'activities performed by or on behalf of the insured, and/or operations necessary to the promotion and holding of gun or firearm shows.'

The Bizilj family’s attorney, Bruce Melikian, declined comment on the notion that the gun club may have lacked insurance coverage. 'We’re not surprised by the filing of a declaratory judgment action by Lloyd’s of London,' he said."
Read the comments at the link under Jessica Van Sack's article at the link.  Funny?  Also somewhat ignorant, and this is not a defense of the father's conduct, or of the underlying claim.  It's about the illusory nature of insurance contracts.

If you can get past the part where the father and everyone in creation is called (and probably are ...) factually stupid--a more interesting principle is being tested that relates to contracts.  You see, Lloyd's of London accepted premiums from the club owners to provide coverages in probably eye-popping sums in the event of an "occurrence."  What often happens after an occurrence, is that the insurance company through its attorneys come forward and file lawsuits disclaiming coverage because these lawyers will claim, "no occurrence" under the contractual language, the laws of the state, or some other reason.  Those of us who have dealt with such lawsuits are left to wonder, what did the "insured" get for their premiums besides the illusory promise of coverage?

This situation happened to me at a particular vulnerable point in my sordid career.  I had built a reputation for obtaining large verdicts and settlements on behalf of victims of child sex abuse vis-a-vis the perpetrators and the negligent co-custodial adult, i.e. mom, grandma, aunt, neighbor spouse and so forth.  The insurance companies seemed to be on the hook, but, just when I had gone all-in financially in my devotion to this practice, the OurState Supreme Court handed down a decision saying that the plain language of the applicable home owner's insurance policies did not provide coverage for the negligence of the adult who should have protected the child from their pedophile spouse, son, relative.   We did not expect that insurance companies had undertaken to insure against intentional acts of pedophiles, but the policy language written by the insurance companies themselves said they would provide coverage for negligent insured's which meant the other family member who had a duty to the vulnerable child. 

"No way," the insurers claimed.  The act of the perpetrator was not "an occurrence" and since the liability of the other insured, mom et al.,  flowed from this non-occurrence, there was no coverage.  No money for the victim of the outrages. As I said, the OurState Supremes agreed.  Got that? 

One of the greatest scams, is the legal insurance scams.  The customer pays premiums, you get nothing.

Now let's think about what's really going on in the claim arising out of the idiotic death of Christopher Bizilj?  His heartbroken relatives (forget the father) have said that the child's death was wrongful and that there should be a financial consequence.  The gun club operators tried to insure against risks of operating a facility where lethal weapons are used.  Now the carrier that took the gun club's money is saying, "hey pals, you're on your own."  Not only are the insurers not insuring but they are suing their insureds to avoid defending the insureds under their contract of insurance and the are seeking an order saying that no matter the outcome, they don't have to pay. Nice.


  1. The insight about this sort of thing is very valuable. Most people lawyers too, do not have this sort of understanding of these strange lawsuits that get bantered around as if they signify something wrong with americans who sue.

    1. What a crock of BS. This "analysis" is ludicrous. The argument could be better put like this. The sponsors of a car show allows people to drive a Ferrari. They take out insurance to protect against accident liability. Now someone wants their 8 year old to drive the car. This should be an automatic NO. NO WAY. If you can't drive the car legally (or buy the gun legally) than you should not be able to operate this car and the insurance company has the right to expect this as simple common sense.

      "The gun club operators tried to insure against risks of operating a facility where lethal weapons are used." Can this be more nonsensical? This is NOT what they insured against. The insurance company has every right to expect the operators to act in a way that does not violate the "reasonable man" criteria and NO REASONABLE MAN would expect a 8 year old to be firing an Assault weapon designed to kill humans and no other purpose.

  2. The boy's father permitted the boy to handle and shoot a Uzi. The child lost control of the weapon and accidentally shot himself in the head. PPI Claims Management