(CN) – Nationwide Insurance must pay the defense costs of a college student who got into a fight after a game of beer pong and knocked out his opponent, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled.
Adam Copp was playing the drinking game while celebrating the end of final exams at Virginia Tech. He and a friend were challenged by a pair of new arrivals at the party whom they did not know.
Copp asked them to leave after one of them made an offensive remark. When the ejected pong player wouldn’t stop yelling, Copp went outside and tried to approach him again.
Gregory Jacobson was trying to separate the two when Copp threw an overhand punch and knocked him out. Jacobson needed two surgeries to repair a fractured eye socket.
Copp pleaded no contest to assault and battery charges. Jacobson then sued Copp and Nationwide for damages.
Nationwide argued that it was not liable under an exclusion for “bodily injury intended or expected by the insured.”
The trial court agreed with Nationwide, but Senior Justice Harry Carrico reversed the decision, citing a self-defense exception in the policy and ordering the trial to proceed.
“Whether Copp’s acts were or were not caused by his trying to protect person or property must be left to the fact-finder in the subsequent trial of the underlying tort action,” he wrote.