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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In 2005, medical authorities diagnosed Stephen Seffel with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A trial court appointed Charles Appleby as temporary guardian of Seffel’s person and his estate. Shortly thereafter, Appleby placed Seffel in an assisted care facility. While in the facility, Seffel twice “knocked down” another resident, Margaret Ann Sundby, over a period of three days. Sundby died from her injuries about two weeks after the second incident. Sundby’s family sued Seffel and Appleby, both individually and as Seffel’s guardian. Seffel was an insured under a farm liability policy issued by Hochheim Prairie Casualty Insurance Co. When Hochheim refused to provide coverage, Seffel’s estate filed a third-party petition seeking a declaration on coverage and indemnity issues. The trial court severed the declaratory judgment action from the Sundby suit, and Hochheim and Seffel’s estate each moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the estate’s motion, denied Hochheim’s motion and ordered Hochheim to pay defense costs incurred by the estate in the Sundby litigation. Hochheim appealed. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court first decided whether the trial court properly considered extrinsic evidence in determining Hochheim’s duty to defend. In his motion for summary judgment, Appleby argued that Seffel’s actions may have been the result of “a disease process and not controllable by” Seffel, because he suffered from dementia. In support of his motion, Appleby attached the affidavit of a neurologist who opined that Seffel was not responsible for his actions when he struck Sundby, because such aggressive behavioral outbursts are not uncommon in patients with dementia. The trial court, however, overruled Hochheim’s objection to the affidavit. The court agreed that the trial court erred in considering extrinsic evidence of Seffel’s mental state in determining whether it had a duty to defend. Under the eight-corners rule, the court stated, an insurer’s duty to defend is determined solely by comparing the allegations within the four corners of the petition with the language contained within the four corners of the policy. If a petition, the court stated, does not allege facts within the scope of coverage, an insurer is not legally required to defend a suit against its insured. The court found that in the underlying Sundby lawsuit, Appleby pleaded Seffel’s diminished capacity as a defense to liability. Seffel’s diminished capacity, the court stated, was also the basis upon which Appleby sought coverage in the third-party action against Hochheim. Because the evidence went to the issue of both coverage and the merits of the underlying suit, the court found that the should not have considered it. Next, the court decided whether the suit triggered Hochheim’s duty to defend. Specifically, the court sought to determine whether Sundby’s bodily injury was caused by an “occurrence” within the scope of the insurance policy. The policy defined “occurrence” as “an accident . . . .” Hochheim asserted that its duty to defend was not triggered because Seffel’s assault on Sundby was not an “accident.” Appleby countered that Seffel could not have intentionally assaulted Sundby, because he lacked the mental capacity to form the intent to harm her. The court stated that Hochheim focused too narrowly on the allegation contained in the petition filed in the survivorship action that Seffel “assaulted” Sundby. The court stated that its focus must be on the factual allegations that show the origin of the damages and not on the legal theory alleged. Giving the allegations their most liberal interpretation, the court concluded that the petition alleged facts potentially within the scope of coverage, because they raised the question of whether Seffel unintentionally knocked Sundby down, causing her injury. OPINION:Marion, J.; Lopez, C.J., and Marion and Speedlin, JJ.

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