Trayvon Martin’s mother is being sued by an insurance company trying to absolve itself from any liability in the teen’s death, according to an attorney for Martin’s family.
Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America has sued Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, and The Retreat at Twin Lakes Homeowner’s Association, the gated community where Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in late February.
Travelers claims that it is not responsible to defend the homeowners association because of various clauses in the association’s policy, specifically a “wrongful act” exclusion.
On March 30, just over a month after Martin was killed, the homeowners association took out a liability policy with Travelers, and shortly thereafter Fulton made a claim for monetary damages in her son’s death.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Travelers in its suit seeks clarification of its protections against Fulton’s claim, saying that it “is in doubt of its rights” under the policy.
In federal court papers, the insurance company wrote:
“Travelers is in doubt of its rights under the policy and, by this petition, seeks a declaration of its rights and obligations with respect to the claim and demand made by Fulton upon Travelers and The Retreat at Twin Lakes as a result of the fatal shooting of Martin, and a finding by the court that under the above-referenced policy of insurance Travelers has no duty to indemnify or defend The Retreat at Twin Lakes in connection with the Fulton claim because coverage is precluded by the above exclusion.”
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, said the insurer’s suit essentially is seeking clarification on its obligations.
“It’s real simple: They are filing against the homeowners association and Sybrina because we are making a claim against them,” Crump told HuffPost.
“As lawyers we have to look out for our clients’ interest. We are trying to see what coverages there are for the homeowners association and what’s applicable. And Sybrina and Tracy [Martin, Trayvon’s father], they’re concerned about getting justice for their child.”
Crump said that a suit has not as yet been filed against the homeowners association on behalf of Martin’s family, simply a claim, which lays the groundwork for any future litigation.
In the suit filed by Travelers, it notes various exemptions in the association’s policy, which the insurer suggests insulate it from having to pay out damages in Martin’s death, including a clause that states the insurer “shall not be liable to make any payment” arising from “bodily injury, sickness, mental anguish, emotional distress, disease or death of any person, provided that this exclusion shall not apply” to allegations “made as part of a Claim for Wrongful Employment Practices.”
Martin, 17, was shot and killed on February 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman claims he shot the teen in self-defense. Martin’s family and their attorneys say that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, who was black, then followed him and provoked an altercation before killing him with a single gunshot to the chest.
Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the shooting and has been charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty and is currently out on $1 million bond.
Meanwhile, Sybrina Fulton is seeking money from a state fund established for crime victims, according to the Associated Press.
Fulton is seeking an undisclosed amount of money from the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund, which offers victims as much as $30,000. The AP is reporting that the state attorney general’s office has deemed Fulton eligible for compensation benefits but no check has been issued to date. More than 16,000 claims, totaling more than $25 million, were paid from the fund to victims in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Disbursements can be used to cover funeral expenses, lost wages, medical expenses and grief and mental health counseling. Funding for the program is pooled from various sources, including court fees paid by offenders. The state attorney general’s Office has not disclosed the exact amount Martin’s family has requested.