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Judge rules in favor of insurance company in lawsuit against former U.Va. lacrosse player George Huguely

Chartis Property Casualty Company will not have to cover potential damages for upcoming civil lawsuit

<p>Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder and grand larceny on Feb. 22, 2012 for killing his ex-girlfriend and fellow U.Va. student Yeardley Love.&nbsp;</p>

Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder and grand larceny on Feb. 22, 2012 for killing his ex-girlfriend and fellow U.Va. student Yeardley Love. 

A federal judge in Maryland ruled in favor of Chartis Property Casualty Company Monday in a lawsuit the insurance company filed against former University student and lacrosse player George Huguely. The insurance company sought to dispute the claim that they were obligated to provide Huguely insurance coverage in a related civil lawsuit.

The case decided Monday was contingent upon the lawsuit Sharon Love filed on April 26, 2012 against Huguley, charging Huguley with the 2010 murder of Love’s daughter, Yeardley Love, who was a fourth-year College student at the time of her death.

Huguely and Love had been in a relationship prior to May 3, 2010, the day when Huguely entered Love’s apartment and engaged in a physical altercation with her that resulted in her death.

Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder and grand larceny in Feb. 22 2012 and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Huguely’s parents, Andrew and Marta Murphy, fought the conviction, arguing Huguely should have instead been convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The Supreme Court of Virginia ultimately declined to hear Huguely’s appeal in November 2014.

According to the original wrongful death lawsuit filed against Huguely in 2012, Love sought $29.45 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

The Huguely family requested insurance coverage from Chartis Property Casualty Company, the insurance company covering Huguely, in the event a jury awards Love the compensatory and punitive damages. According to the complaint filed by Chartis, Huguely sought coverage based on a “Chartis homeowners insurance policy and a Chartis personal excess liability insurance policy issued to Andrew and Marta Murphy,” his step-father and mother.

Chartis filed its own civil suit on May 20, 2013, asking to be exempt from providing coverage for Huguely.

The complaint filed by Chartis detailed why the company believes it should not be responsible for paying $6 million in damages if the Loves win the original civil case, pointing toward Huguely’s failure to comply with their policies to investigate the case in which he was accused.

“Inasmuch as Huguely claims to be an insured under the homeowners policy and the excess policy, he has a contractual obligation under both policies to cooperate with Chartis’ investigation of the facts and circumstances underlying the civil litigation,” the complaint reads. “Such cooperation includes submitting to an examination under oath and answering Chartis’ questions regarding the facts and circumstances leading up to and surrounding the alleged altercation between Huguely and Yeardley R. Love on May 2-3, 2010 and Yeardley R. Love’s death.”

Huguely allegedly failed to respond to a number of Chartis’ requests for an examination under oath. A subsequent letter from Huguely’s attorney, Craig S. Cooley, indicated that Huguely would “assert his Fifth Amendment privilege in response to any and all questions relating to the events out of which his criminal charges arose.”

On April 12, 2013, Cooley confirmed that Huguely would not “answer any questions as to the incident or events surrounding the incident of the death of Ms. Love,” and that he would “decline any visit or contact with representatives of Chartis Insurance.”

In the complaint, Chartis asserts it has a right to fully investigate and explore the facts surrounding the civil litigation and the demand for coverage under the homeowners policy and the excess policy. Chartis was unable to complete its investigation as a result of Huguely’s refusal to submit to an examination under oath and respond substantively to Chartis’s questions.

“Huguely’s failure and refusal to cooperate in Chartis’ investigation has prejudiced Chartis’ ability to investigate the civil litigation and its potential coverage obligations in any meaningful manner,” the complaint says.

The judge's ruling in favor of Chartis does not include State Farm, the other insurance company covering Huguely. The State Farm policy is worth $300,000.

The original wrongful death civil lawsuit, which was waiting for this case’s decision before moving forward, is scheduled to go to trial in Charlottesville Circuit Court on July 30, 2018.