This case is one of the strangest I have ever run across in my research. I thought you would find it interesting.
Mr. and Mrs. Evans resided in Clinton, Kentucky, where they banked with the Clinton Bank. In late 1985, the Evanses moved here to Arlington, Tennessee. Mr. Evans informed his wife in May, 1987, that he would be moving to Boston with a woman with whom he had an affair a year before who, according to Mrs. Evans’ testimony, was “nuts,” and often conversed with dead people, and was in and out of insane asylums.
Mrs. Evans contacted the Clinton Bank to discuss payments that were due on the couple’s outstanding personal loan. She was informed that the bank was holding a bill for “Bob Evans'” safety deposit box in the Bank. Unaware that her husband had ever obtained a safety deposit box, Mrs. Evans falsely stated that her husband had lost the keys to the box and had asked if there was another way to get into the box. The bank told her that since she had her husband’s power of attorney, she could have the safety deposit box drilled open by a locksmith, which she did. To her astonishment, she discovered $186,000.00 secured in several bundles! Mrs. Evans took all the cash out and left.
Mrs. Evans was distraught upon finding the large sum of cash as she believed that it must have been obtained illegally by her husband through espionage or unlawful dealings connected with their government defense contracting business. She feared that she had implicated herself by signing a receipt for the contents of the safety deposit box. Upon returning to her home, where her son was burning logs, brush, and trash in a large pile, she burned the money. The son asked why she was burning money, she replied, “[i]t’s filthy. It’s dirty money. It was in Bob’s box.”
She testified: “All of the lies that had been told to me for the last six months jumped out of that box like snakes, and I knew that that money was illegal, and that it was either drug money or espionage money; that my husband had jeopardized ten long years for this stinking, lousy money. And I had signed the d**n card, and my name was on this card. My whole outlook on life was blown up in front of me. I had to get rid of the money. It was the link between whatever he was into back to me. And I couldn’t put it back in the d**n box, because we busted the locks.” “…I don’t—I was scared to death. My whole life was coming apart over a lousy box full of money and a husband who I no longer knew. I don’t know who he is, and I don’t know what he has been involved in, but it is dirty and it’s nasty and it hasn’t stopped yet. It’s only beginning. And this is involving a clearance that I signed on the dotted line with the U.S. Government for. I signed the visitor access letters to give him access to the secret information to projects you will never hear about. Do you know what they are worth to somebody else? You put it together. What would you have done with the d**n money?”
Approximately three weeks later, she was contacted by an officer of the Clinton Bank who informed her that the safety deposit box in the name of “Bob Evans” did not belong to her husband, and that the box had actually been leased to “Roy Dillard” under the name “Bob Evans.” The Bank demanded the return of the money.
The Bank reimbursed the estate of Roy Dillard who died after the money was burned, and then it sued Mr. and Mrs. Evans. (There is no explanation contained in the record why the Bank permitted Roy Dillard to maintain a safety deposit box under a false name, “Bob Evans,” or why Roy Dillard thought it necessary to do so in the first place.)
During the time that the events described above took place, the Evanses were insured under a farm owner’s liability policy issued by Tennessee Farmers. The coverage portion of the policy provides in pertinent part: “We will pay all sums arising out of any one loss which an insured person becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of bodily injury or property damage covered by this policy. If a claim is made or suit is brought against the insured person for liability, we will defend the insured person at our expense….” Significantly, the policy contained an “exclusion” for property damage “expected or intended by an insured person.” (“Exclusion” means they will not provide coverage.)
Mrs. Evans argues that although she may have deliberately obtained the contents of the safety deposit box which both she and the Bank believed belonged to her husband, there was no intent to misappropriate or destroy anything belonging to Dillard. That is, although Dillard suffered property damage when the money was removed from the Bank and burned, the infliction of damage was not “expected or intended” by Mrs. Evans because she sincerely believed that the money was her husband’s. Thus, her insurance should defend the suit and/or cover the loss. No, they did not buy it either. She lost at the trial level, on appeal and finally at the Tennessee Supreme Court.
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