Oregon Case Law Update: Oregon Court of Appeals Requires an Insurer to Indemnify its Insured for Intentional Timber Trespass Claim Despite an Exclusion for Intentional Acts

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Oregon Case Law Update: Oregon Court of Appeals Requires an Insurer to Indemnify its Insured for Intentional Timber Trespass Claim Despite an Exclusion for Intentional Acts

From the Desk of Joshua P. Hayward: Commercial general liability insurance policies issued in the state of Oregon typically include the duties to defend and indemnify. A common exclusion in these policies is an exclusion for intentional acts. If an insured is found liable for an intentional timber trespass, can the insurer rely on an intentional act exclusion for its refusal to indemnify? Read on to find out.

Case Pointer: In this dispute arising from an insurer’s refusal to defend and indemnify a timber trespass claim, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s determination that the insurer had a duty to defend and indemnify. Despite the fact that the insured was found liable for intentional timber trespass, the insurer was required to defend and indemnify the insured because the insured did not expressly intend to damage the trees and other potential exclusions were ambiguous. This case is a reminder that any ambiguity or uncertainty contained in a policy will be construed against the insurance company.

Bighorn Logging Corp. v. Truck Ins. Exchange, 295 Or App 819 (Jan. 30, 2019).

In 2012, Bighorn Logging Corporation (“Bighorn”) was engaged in an extensive logging project on property owned by Dr. Edney (“Edney Property”). To assist in its operation, Bighorn sought and obtained permission from Paul Ater to use trees on his property as rope anchors to assist in the logging operation. Mr. Ater agreed to specified terms, including that Bighorn would use only two to three trees and use a special anchoring technique that would not damage the trees. Following the operation, Mr. Ater alleged that Bighorn cut down or damaged 18 trees on his property.  He filed a timber trespass lawsuit against Bighorn. In Oregon, if a plaintiff can prove timber trespass, they are entitled...

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