Intentional act, even by mistake, is not accidental and not insured (US)

A homeowner trespassed on her neighbour’s property and cleared their land thinking it was her own property.  The court held that this was an intentional act and not an accident even if the act caused unintended harm.  The policy covered “damaged … property damage caused by an occurrence” which in turn was “an accident … which results in property damage”.

The court concluded that the deliberate act of hiring contractors to clear and level the neighbour’s land constituted intentional conduct and was therefore not an accident within the meaning of the policy.  The levelling of the land and cutting of trees were not unexpected or unforeseen events.  An accident is not present when the insured performs a deliberate act unless some additional, unexpected, independent and unforeseen happening occurs that produces damage.  The insured’s mistaken belief about the boundaries of her property was irrelevant to determining whether the conduct itself of levelling land and cutting trees was intentional.  The rejection of the claim as non-accidental was upheld.

Ghukasian v Aegis Security Insurance Co case no: B311310 Court of Appeal of the State of California