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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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State Farm Not On Hook For Toots Concert Injury

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. has no obligation to pay damages stemming from a May 2013 incident in which reggae star Toots Hibbert was injured by a drunk fan, a federal judge ruled.

Hibbirt, whose given name is Frederick, is the leader of the reggae and ska band Toots & the Maytals. He was seriously injured while performing at the Dominion Riverrock Festival on May 18, 2013, when an inebriated 19-year-old, William Connor Lewis, hit him with an empty Grey Goose Vodka bottle.

In a complaint seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages, Hibbert said the bottle struck him with such force that it left him with a concussion, and lacerated his face and forehead.

He claimed that as result of the injuries he was forced to cancel several planned concert appearances.

Lewis was initially faced a felony charge of malicious wounding, but later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault and battery. Hibbert asked Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret Spencer to spare the young man jail, but she instead sentenced Lewis to six months.

In the meantime, Hibbert continued to pursue his damages claim, and State Farm, which insures Lewis' mother, filed a motion asking the court to declare it had no obligation to provide a defense against the singer's claim or pay any damages that might ultimately be awarded.

The insurer contended that because Lewis acted with malice and intent, he would not be eligible for coverage under his mother's homeowner's policy.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson ruled in favor State Farm last week, holding that conflicting statements Lewis made about his actions simply do not suggest the incident was an accidental occurrence.

Hudson noted that Lewis initially claimed the whole thing had been an accident, and Hibbert's injuries the result of negligence at best. Then he turned around an entered his guilty plea to assault.

"Given his admission in the criminal case that he intentionally threw the bottle toward a crowded stage of performers, any attempt to retreat from that position ... would be an insurmountable task," the judge wrote. "While Lewis's deposition testimony may provide a lame explanation for his behavior, it is still sufficient to support an actionable claim of assault and battery."

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