Minn. Judge: Insurer Not Required to Cover Shooter

January 13, 2008

A federal judge ruled that American Family Insurance is not obligated to cover John Jason McLaughlin in the wrongful death lawsuit filed against him by the parents of the two Rocori, Minn., students he killed in 2003.

Attorneys for the parents of Aaron Rollins and Seth Bartell had asked U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Schiltz to determine what obligations the insurance company and Mc-Laughlin had under the insurance policy purchased by Mc-Laughlin’s parents.

A Stearns County District Court judge had dismissed the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the Rollins and Bartell families against McLaughlin, his father David, the Rocori school district and former Rocori High School Principal Doug Standke but left available the option of refiling the lawsuit. After the dismissal, the families’ claims against David McLaughlin, the school district and Standke were settled.

There are no pending claims against Jason McLaughlin, 19, but another lawsuit could be filed against him. With insurance coverage not an option to recover damages, the families likely would be able to get only a judgment against any money McLaughlin earns in prison.

McLaughlin, convicted of first- and second-degree murder for the deaths of Rollins and Bartell, is serving a life sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud.

In denying coverage, American Family cited contractual language that excludes claims based on malicious and wanton acts. Attorneys for the victims’ families argued that McLaughlin’s mental illness prevented him from knowing that what he did was wrong.

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