Miglino, Salvatore Miglino appealed a summary judgment entered in favor the insurer,
Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company, which ruled the insurer
had no duty to indemnify or defend its insured in a separate personal
action. Harvey Stein was the insured on a policy with Universal. Stein
lent a gun to his sister, who later used the gun to shoot her son-in-law,
Miglino. Miglino brought suit against Stein and his sister, alleging negligent
entrustment against Stein. Universal initially defended Stein, its insured,
under a reservation of rights, and filed a declaratory judgment action
arguing it had no duty to defend or indemnify the personal injury action
under “exclusion k” of the insured’s homeowner’s policy.
The policy provides coverage for bodily injury caused by an occurrence.
Exclusion K however excludes payments to others for damages arising out
of sexual molestation, corporal punishment or physical or mental abuse.
The policy did not define physical abuse. The trial court granted summary
judgment in the insurer’s favor finding that exclusion K precluded
coverage for the intentional shooting of Miglino.
On appeal, the Fourth District initially noted that where the language
in an insurance contract is plain and unambiguous, a court must interpret
the policy in accordance with the plan meaning so as to give effect to
the policy as written. The lack of a definition of a term in a policy
does not render it ambiguous or in need of interpretation by the courts.
The Fourth District explained that such terms must be given their every
day meaning and should be read with regards to ordinary people’s
skills and experience. Florida courts use both legal and non-legal dictionaries
to ascertain the plain meaning of words that appear in insurance policies.
The Fourth District turned to Black’s Law Dictionary to determine
the definition of physical abuse. Physical is defined as relating or pertaining
to the body, and abuse is defined as physical or mental maltreatment and
to injure a person physically or mentally. The Fourth District therefore
ruled that the plain meaning of physical abuse encompasses the intentional
shooting of Miglino by the insured’s sister. The Fourth District
rejected Miglino’s argument that exclusion K did not apply because
there was no torture, torment, humiliation or degradation. The court ruled
that those facts are not required for the action in question to rise to
the level of physical abuse. The Fourth District affirmed.