THE STATE OF
In The Court of Appeals
South Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, Respondent,
David R. Dawsey, Sr. and David R. Dawsey, Jr., Defendants,
of whom David R. Dawsey, Jr. is Appellant.
Mikell R. Scarborough, Master In Equity
Opinion No. 4176
Submitted October 1, 2006 – Filed November 6, 2006
James K. Holmes, of
Charleston, for Appellant.
Robert J. Thomas, of
Columbia, for Respondent.
STILWELL, J.: South Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company filed this declaratory judgment action against David R. Dawsey, Sr. (father) and David R. Dawsey, Jr. (son) seeking a determination regarding coverage under a homeowner’s insurance policy. The master in equity found the policy excluded coverage for injuries incurred by the son. The son appeals. We affirm.
The parties stipulated to the underlying facts: The father was insured under a Farm Bureau homeowner’s policy. On February 22, 2002, the son drove to the father’s home in
The policy provides coverage for bodily injury caused by an occurrence but excludes coverage for injury “resulting from intentional acts or directions of you or any insured. The expected or unexpected results or (sic) these acts or directions are not covered.” The master found the exclusion applied in this case and entered judgment for Farm Bureau.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Because declaratory judgment actions are neither legal nor equitable, the
standard of review depends on the nature of the underlying issues. Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Hamin, 368 S.C. 536, 540, 629 S.E.2d 683, 685 (Ct. App. 2006), petition for cert. filed, (S.C. June 16, 2006). When the purpose of the underlying dispute is to determine whether coverage exists under an insurance policy, the action is one at law.
The son argues the master erred in construing the policy to exclude coverage. We disagree.
Insurance policies are subject to the general rules of contract construction. Century Indem.
The son argues the South Carolina Supreme Court’s interpretation of the intentional acts exclusions in Miller v. Fidelity-Phoenix Insurance Co., 268 S.C. 72, 231 S.E.2d 701 (1977), and Vermont Mutual Insurance Co. v. Singleton, 316 S.C. 5, 446 S.E.2d 417 (1994), should have been applied in this case. The insurance policies in Miller and Vermont Mutual contained language excluding coverage for damage intentionally caused by the insured. The policies did not specifically exclude coverage for the unintentional consequences of intentional acts.
The Miller court developed a two-prong test to analyze coverage under an exclusion such as that found in the Miller case. To exclude coverage under the Miller test, the act causing the loss must have been intentional and the consequences must have been intended. Miller, 268 S.C. at 75, 231 S.E.2d at 701 (providing coverage where a child set fire to a home for the excitement of seeing the fire trucks arrive but no intent to damage the home). In Vermont Mutual, the court applied the Miller test, rejecting the insurer’s argument to adopt a more “contemporary” intentional act analysis. 316 S.C. at 7-8, 446 S.E.2d at 419 (providing coverage where a teenager acted in self-defense when he struck another teenager but did not intend the extensive eye injuries inflicted).
The son argues the policy language in this case excludes coverage for unexpected consequences but does not exclude coverage for unintentional consequences. Thus, the son maintains, the second prong of the Miller test should still apply to provide coverage. The son admits, however, that the terms “intend” and “expect” are “often defined synonymously.” To read the policy in the manner urged by the son would require us to rewrite the policy, rather than interpret it as written. “The judicial function of a court of law is to enforce an insurance contract as made by the parties, and not to rewrite or to distort, under the guise of judicial construction . . . .” Thompson v. Continental Ins. Cos., 291 S.C. 47, 49, 351 S.E.2d 904, 905 (
HEARN, C.J., and KITTREDGE, J., concur.
 We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.