NEW ORLEANS – A woman is appealing a lower Texas court’s ruling that Century Surety Co. is not responsible to cover the nearly $22 million owed to her from her successful sexual assault suit against the owner of Pastazios Pizza Inc.
The woman, named as Jane Doe, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit claiming the lower court erred in ruling Century was not liable to cover Pastazios, a bankrupt restaurant, due to the liquor liability and intentional acts exclusions outlined in the commercial general liability policy. As a result, Century was relieved of duty to defend or indemnify Pastazios and the owner Ajredin "Danny" Deari for the award to the victim.
The appeal stems from a suit filed after an incident in 2011 in which the then 18-year-old Doe met Deari during a job interview for a different restaurant. The suit states the plaintiff and Deari later met at Pastazios, and Deari served the victim several alcoholic drinks until the she passed out, the suit states. According to the appellate brief, Doe woke up naked in a hotel room with Deari sexually assaulting her. Ultimately, as noted in the appellate brief, Deari was indicted and plead guilty to aggravated assault.
The victim won a judgment of nearly $22 million in her civil suit against Pastazio and Deari. During the process, Pastazios filed for bankruptcy and creditors' trust was created.
Doe appealed claim the lower court erred on several issues, including Century did have duty to defend and indemnify. The appellate brief claimed that bodily harm came to Doe due to the beer served and “[b]ecause Doe’s petition therefore alleged all the elements required to bring at least one claim ... Century had a duty to defend PPI -- a duty it initially acknowledged having.”
The appellate brief also argued that Doe’s suit did not claim Pastazios expected or intended the bodily injuries she sustained later in the sexual assault. The suit does give details of allegations of Pastazios' negligence in not asking for her ID, serving her excessive alcohol to the point she passed out, and not intervening when she was taken from the establishment. The brief claims the lower court erred in the interpretation of “intentional acts” exclusions.
In its final pages, the appellate brief concludes Century is still responsible for the award because “...even if Century did not owe a duty to defend, it cannot legitimately dispute that the state court trial was ‘fully adversarial.’”