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Fatal Harvard Stabbing Covered by Insurance

(CN) - A former Harvard graduate student can rely on his mother's insurance policy for a $260,000 judgment he owes to the estate of a teenager he killed in a drunken fight eight years ago.

In April 2003, Alexander Pring-Wilson was in his final year of a master's program at Harvard University. After consuming at least seven drinks in Cambridge, Mass., one night, he walked by a car parked outside a pizzeria.

One of the occupants in the car, 18-year-old Michael Colono, saw Pring-Wilson and said "something along the lines of, 'Look at that motherfucker, he's shitfaced.'"

Pring-Wilson approached the open car window, thinking Colono might need directions and asked, "Were you talking to me?"

When Colono replied, "Yeah, do you want to do something about it," Pring-Wilson said either "Fuck you" or "Fuck off" and turned to leave.

Colono exited his car and attacked Pring-Wilson, according to the trial record. Colono's cousin, who worked as a restaurant bouncer, also exited the car and joined the fight, "putting Pring-Wilson at a considerable disadvantage," the court said.

As the cousin, Sammy Rodriguez, held Pring-Wilson from behind, Colono kicked and punched from the front. After Pring-Wilson pulled out a knife "and began indiscriminately flailing it in front of him," Rodriguez threw the man to the ground and got back in the car with Colono.

Pring-Wilson, who had no prior criminal record, testified that he habitually carried the knife for general utility purposes.

Colono had sustained five shallow stab wounds in the fight. None of the car passengers realized this until Colono stopped responding. Colono died of a stab wound puncturing his heart.

Pring-Wilson eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, receiving a two-year sentence in 2008. A Middlesex Superior Court judge handling the civil trial later found him guilty of negligently causing Colono's death and awarded $260,000 to Colono's estate.

Pring-Wilson sought to cover the judgment with two insurance policies held by his mother, Cynthia Pring. The insurers, Fire Insurance and Farmers Insurance, asked the court to determine liability.

U.S. District Judge Patti Saris found last week that Pring's homeowner's policy with Fire Insurance does not cover the court judgment against her son, but that "Farmers Insurance has a duty to indemnify Pring-Wilson according to the terms of its umbrella policy."

The Farmers policy's exclusion clause states that it will not cover damages that are "either expected or intended from the standpoint of the insured."

"Farmers has not established that Pring-Wilson subjectively expected or intended any harm to Colono," Saris wrote (italics in original). "The wounds were shallow and consistent with Pring-Wilson's description and demonstration in court that he was waving the knife back and forth to ward off his assailants."

"Indeed, even Colono did not immediately know he was stabbed," she added "It was not 'practically certain' serious harm would result from Pring-Wilson's actions."

"Based on the record of the trial, I find that the plaintiff has not proved that injury to Colono was 'expected or intended' from Pring-Wilson's perspective," the 29-page decision states. "As a result, Farmers umbrella policy provides coverage for Pring-Wilson's judgment."

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