Personal and Advertising Exclusion Ambiguous

A district court in Virginia held that an exclusion for personal and advertising injury under a State Farm Businessowner's Policy was ambiguous. Coverage for personal and advertising injury is precluded under exclusion 17(h)(1) if "[c]ommited by an insured whose business is: advertising, broadcasting, publishing or telecasting." State Farm Fire and Cas. Co. v. Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, No. 1:13-cv-957, slip op. (E.D. Va. May 16, 2014).  On State Farm’s motion for reconsideration, the Court framed the issue as whether an insured who posts free articles on its website is "an insured whose business is publishing". Since publishing is not defined in the policy, the Court utilized its ordinary meaning finding that the business of publishing "implies a commercial enterprise engaged in the production and sale of hard copy informational texts." The Court also considered that the policy contained other exclusions based on website uses opining that if the exclusion was intended to apply to website usage it would be explicitly stated in the policy language.

The Court rejected State Farm's assertion that the insured was in the business of publishing because of its primary involvement in the production of original news content which it published on its website.  The Court certified the judgment under Rule 54(b) as requested by State Farm. 

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