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Not Our Problem, Insurer Tells Hotel

DALLAS (CN) - An insurer need not defend a La Quinta Inn from a guest family's claim for an armed police raid due to mistaken identity, the insurer claims in court.

Covington Specialty Insurance Co. sued hotel operator One Jay LLC in Federal Court on Thursday.

The lawsuit comes one month after Walter Harrison, of St. Louis, sued Irving, Texas-based La Quinta in Dallas County Court.

Harrison was in Dallas for a Baptist convention with his wife, daughter and sister-in-law and stayed at Room 201 at the LBJ La Quinta in north Dallas. He claimed he was awakened by a front desk call at 6:30 a.m. on June 17 about a problem with his credit card. When he opened his door, he says, he was confronted by three police officers and three U.S. marshals.

"One of the officers at the door began to shout at plaintiff and placed his firearm to plaintiff's head," Harrison's complaint stated . "The other officers had their firearms aimed, as if ready to fire at him. Of course, the melee awakened plaintiff's family who came to the door and witnessed the outrageous assault of plaintiff. The officer holding the firearm shouted for plaintiff to tell him where another individual was and plaintiff indicated that he had no idea what the officer was talking about and that they had arrested the wrong man. He showed the officers his driver's license and they eventually left. However, the incident greatly traumatized plaintiff and his family, ruining their trip."

But in its Oct. 23 complaint, Covington claims the officers withdrew after realizing they had the wrong man.

"The person the officers sought apparently had stayed in Room 201 but had moved to another room before the Harrison's arrival," Covington's complaint states. "Harrison alleges One Jay was negligent and grossly negligent for participating in the officers' raid when One Jay 'should have known' the officers were targeting the wrong room. Harrison alleges causes of action for negligence, invasion of privacy and 'exemplary damages' arising out of Harrison's severe emotional distress."

But Covington claims that under the hotel's commercial general liability policy, only "bodily injury," "property damage" and "personal and advertising injury" are covered.

"Harrison does not allege 'bodily injury[,]' 'property damage,' or 'personal and advertising injury' as required by the terms of the policy's insuring agreements and definitions," the complaint states. "Accordingly, Harrison's claims do not trigger coverage for defense or indemnity."

Covington claims Harrison's claim of intentional misconduct does not constitute an "accident," nor "expected and intended injury" under the policy.

It refuses to indemnify One Jay for any punitive damages awarded because they "do not constitute damages because of 'bodily injury' as required by the insuring agreement, but are damages intended to punish a defendant."

"Moreover, the conduct required for an award of punitive/exemplary damages, gross negligence, does not constitute an 'accident' as required by the terms of the insuring agreement," the complaint states.

La Quinta did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

Covington seeks a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify One Jay.

It is represented by J. Richard Harmon with Thompson Coe in Dallas.

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