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7th Cir. Autoerotic Asphyxiation: The Sequel

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  • 7th Cir. Autoerotic Asphyxiation: The Sequel

    In a follow up to one of the early posts I published on this forum (http://www.erisaboard.com/forum/eris...iation-n-d-ill), the 7th Circuit reversed the judgement of the lower court. The court's reasoning seems to have hung on what constitutes "intentionally self-inflicted" finding:

    Having determined autoerotic asphyxiation is an injury, the remainder of our inquiry is straightforward. We decide whether an act was accidentally or intentionally done—as required by the “intentionally self-inflicted” exclusion in the AD&D riders—by applying the subjective/objective test we adopted in Santaella. 123 F.3d at 462–63. For an injury, we examine whether the injured individual had a subjective expectation of injuring himself, and if that cannot be determined, whether an expectation of injury was objectively reasonable.3 Id. Here, we need not reach the objective step in the analysis, because Llenos’s subjective intent was clear.4 Llenos intentionally performed autoerotic asphyxiation. Because that act itself is an injury, Llenos’s death falls under the policy exclusion for intentionally self-inflicted injuries. This holding does not conflict with our holding in Santaella, as the dissent and the Ninth Circuit suggests. See Padfield, 290 F.3d at 1130 (“This case is analytically identical to Santaella.”). In Santaella, we concluded there was no record evidence to indicate the insured had intended to injure herself by taking the prescription painkiller. Santaella, 123 F.3d at 465; see also Padfield, 290 F.3d at 1131 (Leavy, J., dissenting) (distinguishing the overdose in Santaella from autoerotic asphyxiation). That differs from here: Llenos intentionally strangled himself so he could experience hypoxia-induced euphoria. That strangulation itself, partial or otherwise, was an injury that he intentionally inflicted on himself, unlike the insured in Santaella. Strangling oneself to cut off oxygen to one’s brain is an injury, full stop. When that injury kills, it is “an intentionally self-inflicted injury which resulted in death,” regardless of whether it was done recreationally or with an intent to survive. Padfield, 290 F.3d at 1131 (Leavy, J., dissenting); Callaway, 825 A.2d at 1007. Under the plain and ordinary meaning of Llenos’s AD&D riders, his death is excluded from coverage.
    The full opinion is attached below.
    Attached Files
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