Insurer files federal suit related to Logan Goodall case

By Chris Dickerson | Jul 24, 2008

Logan Goodall

Michael Merrifield

CHARLESTON – An insurance company has filed a federal lawsuit seeking relief related to the high-profile death of a toddler in 2005.

Westfield Insurance Company filed the suit July 21 in Charleston against Jeremy S. Goodall, administrator of the estate of Logan Goodall.

Logan Goodall died Sept. 6, 2005, shortly before his third birthday. An autopsy showed he had been beaten and sexually abused. Michael Merrifield, the ex-boyfriend of the Logan's mother, was sentenced to life in prison for Logan's first-degree murder in May.

According to Westfield's federal complaint, Jeremy Goodall had filed a complaint against Dr. John and Diane Merrifield, the convicted man's parents. He said Dr. Merrifield had treated Logan for injuries, including those which were unusual and suspicious for physical and sexual abuse. He claims the doctor didn't report the injuries to the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) as required.

He also alleges that Diane Merrifield falsely said she didn't know Logan Goodall or his mother. He says both of them conspired to protect their son Michael Merrifield, "a person well known to them to be abusive and violent."

The Westfield complaint also says Jeremy Goodall's claims against Dr. Merrifield have been resolved by settlement, but that his claims against Diane Merrifield still are pending.

"This declaratory judgment action is filed to quiet any claim that Goodall might make against Dr. and Mrs. Merrifield under the policy of insurance Westfield issued to Dr. and Mrs. Merrifield," the complaint states.

Westfield says it insured the Dr. and Mrs. Merrifield from June 11, 2005, to June 11, 2006. Westfield says it has agreed to pay sums the Merrifields are legally obligated to pay related to "bodily injury" or "property damage" caused by an "occurrence."

"For coverage to be applicable under the policy, however, Goodall's claim for 'bodily injury' must have been caused by an 'occurrence,' which is defined by the policy as an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions," the complaint states. "The Goodall claims against Dr. Merrifield are not claims for 'bodily injury' or 'property damages' caused by an 'occurrence' under the policy."

Goodall's complaint, Westfield says, alleges Dr. Merrifield was guilty of medical negligence in that he breached the standard of care in treating Logan Goodall and that he had a mandatory duty to report Logan's injuries to the DHHR.

"The policy's exclusions bar coverage for the Goodall claims against Dr. Merrifield," the complaint states.

Westfield says it seeks relief in that its policy provides no coverage for Goodall's claims against the Merrifields and that Westfield "has no duty to defend or indemnify" the couple against Goodall's claims or to make payments to him under the policy.

On May 1, Putnam Circuit Judge Ed Eagloski gave Michael Merrifield no possibility of parole after jurors recommended a life sentence with no mercy. Merrifield also was sentenced to concurrent terms of 10 years for child neglect resulting in death and 10 to 20 years for sexual abuse by a guardian.

Pepper Eren, Logan's mother, also is serving up to 10 years for her part in her son's death.

In April, Dr. Merrifield pleaded no contest to a felony charge of gross neglect creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death in Kanawha County. Prosecutors there had accused him of ignoring his son's abuse of Logan Goodall.

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