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Voorhees v. Preferred Mut. Ins. Co.

Supreme Court of New Jersey

February 4, 1992, Argued ; June 17, 1992, Decided

A-58 September Term 1991


 [**1257]  [*169]   The opinion of the Court was delivered by


The primary issue in this appeal is whether a homeowner's insurance policy providing coverage for bodily injuries caused by the insured will cover liability for emotional distress accompanied by physical manifestations. We hold that it will. Further,  [***2]  we hold that the event causing the distress will be deemed an accidental occurrence entitling the insured to coverage when the insured's actions, although intentional, were not intentionally injurious.

In the underlying suit, filed in 1985, Eileen Voorhees was sued by her child's teacher for her comments questioning the teacher's competency and fitness. The complaint against Voorhees indicates that Voorhees and other parents had expressed  [*170]  their concern about the teacher at an open school-board meeting and had requested that their children be removed from her class. The school board decided to relieve the teacher of her teaching duties pending the results of a psychiatric examination. Local newspapers published stories regarding the controversy. The teacher alleged that

[t]he January 17, 1985 issue of The Cranford Chronicle, one of the defendant newspapers in this case, quotes the defendant, Eileen Voorhees, as speaking for the parents of some of the school children of the plaintiff and as saying that she, Eileen Voorhees, was glad the Board of Education had finally "done something." The article goes on to quote the defendant, Eileen Voorhees, as having [***3]  stated, "We have been warning them since September that there were serious problems which should be investigated. I'm just sorry it took an incident like the one on December 10 to convince them."

After the psychiatric examination, the schoolteacher was considered fit to resume teaching, and did so at a special assignment.

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128 N.J. 165 *; 607 A.2d 1255 **; 1992 N.J. LEXIS 384 ***; 8 A.L.R.5th 937


Prior History:  [***1]  On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 246 N.J. Super. 564 (1991).


emotional, distress, coverage, occurrence, infliction, bodily-injury, teacher, ambiguous, accidental, manifestations, defamation, homeowner's, outrage, humiliation, schoolteacher's, embarrassment, intentionally, headaches, triggered, reckless, symptoms, anguish, pains

Insurance Law, Liability & Performance Standards, Good Faith & Fair Dealing, Duty to Defend, Business Insurance, Commercial General Liability Insurance, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Adhesion Contracts, Torts, Types of Negligence Actions, Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, General Overview, Contracts Law, Defenses, Ambiguities & Mistakes, Claim, Contract & Practice Issues, Policy Interpretation, Ambiguous Terms, Construction Against Insurers, Ordinary & Usual Meanings, Plain Language, Reasonable Expectations, Intentional Torts, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Coverage, Bodily Injuries, Estate, Gift & Trust Law, Wills, Joint & Mutual Wills, Exclusions, Intentional Acts, Accidental Injuries, Occurrences, Pollution, Accidental & Sudden Exception, Pollution, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sexual Assault, Abuse of Children, Elements, Intent