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Liberty Corporate Capital, Ltd. v. California Tau Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity At California

April 19, 2013

LIBERTY CORPORATE CAPITAL, LTD. PLAINTIFF,
v.
CALIFORNIA TAU CHAPTER OF SIGMA ALPHA EPSILON FRATERNITY AT CALIFORNIA POLYTECHNIC STATE UNIVERSITY, SAN LUIS OBISPO; SAN LUIS OBISPO; ADAM MARSZAL; JAMIE MERKLER; CHRISTOPHER PERKINS; MATT SILVA; HAITHEM IBRAHIM; MATTHEW FAULKNER; H SCOTT STARKEY AND JULIA STARKEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS CO-ADMINISTRATORS OF THE ESTATE OF CARSON L. STARKEY, DEFENDANTS. ALLIED PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE CO.; AMCO INSURANCE CO., PLAINTIFFS-IN-INTERVENTION,
v.
LIBERTY CORPORATE CAPITAL, LTD.; NOVAE SYNDICATES, LTD.; R J KILN & CO., LTD.; OMEGA UNDERWRITING AGENTS, LTD.; BRIT SYNDICATES, LTD; CATLIN INSURANCE CO. (UK), LTD., DEFENDANTS-IN-INTERVENTION.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge

O

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

I.BACKGROUND

On April 9 and April 16, 2013, the Court held a bench trial to consider the remaining question in this case, whether Plaintiffs Liberty Corporate Capital, Ltd. and Catlin Insurance Co. (UK) Ltd., owed a duty to indemnify four Chapter Members, Adam Marszal, Christopher Perkins, Haithem Ibrahim, and Matthew Faulkner, for their actions on the evening of Carson L. Starkey's death. If Liberty and Catlin owed this duty, then the Court must also decide the appropriate equitable apportionment of settlement payments made on behalf of the four Chapter Members by Plaintiffs-in-Intervention Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Co. and AMCO Insurance Co.

Previously, the Court concluded that Liberty and Catlin were obligated to defend the Chapter Members and awarded Allied and AMCO $170,170.24 in equitable contribution. (ECF No. 201, at 11.) The Court determined that though the hazing and alcohol use were clearly excluded from coverage, a duty to defend existed because the Chapter Members' negligent acts (e.g., failure to care) were a concurrent proximate cause of death along with the hazing and alcohol use. (Id. at 8--9.) This determination was based on the Court's understanding of the timeline of events ("The fraternity members' negligent acts took place after-likely hours after-the hazing and alcohol use.") and its deference towards Allied and AMCO's alcohol-free hypotheticals ("Starkey could have arrived at Brown Bag Night already drunk [and] then [the fraternity members] negligently cared for him and caused his death."). (Id.) This possibility of coverage triggered Liberty and Catlin's duty to defend; but the question whether there actually is coverage remained unanswered. (Id. 10--11.)

Thus, the bench trial focused on the events surrounding the Chapter Members' aborted rescue of Starkey upon his collapse from excessive alcohol consumption. This evidence was needed for the Court to determine whether the Chapter Members' alleged negligent acts were a concurrent proximate cause of death that falls within the coverage afforded by the policy. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

II.FINDINGS OF FACT

1. The Brown Bag Night started at approximately 10:30 p.m. and occurred primarily in the garage of Marszal's home.

2. Starkey, along with other pledges, were each separately given large amounts of alcohol. The quantity of alcohol provided to the pledges was designed to cause severe intoxication.

3. The pledges were told to consume all of the alcohol by midnight.

4. Some of the pledges were throwing up after consuming alcohol.

5. Starkey finished the alcohol given to him within 20 minutes.

6. Shortly thereafter, Starkey became unresponsive and unconscious.

7. Some of the Chapter Members concluded that Starkey was extremely intoxicated and proceeded to ...


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