Coverage Defense Can Be “Slap In Face” To Child Sexual Abuse Victims
I saw a recent piece on the www.insurancejournal.com website that I thought was worth mentioning on this blog because it highlights a huge roadblock that is often presented in cases involving child sexual abuse.
The underlying story was about a mediation that has been scheduled in a large child sexual abuse case going on in Montana. The case involves more than 300 plaintiffs – mostly Native Americans – who claim that Roman Catholic priests and nuns sexually abused them when they were children. As seems to be the situation in many cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse against the Roman Catholic church, the Montana litigation includes claims that church and religious order officials covered up evidence of sexual abuse instead of reporting it.
While the issues in the Montana seem very familiar to those of us that follow these stories and handle child sexual abuse cases, the Insurance Journal story included mention of an additional dispute that can sometimes provide a huge practical obstacle in child sexual molestation cases. In the Montana case, it appears that the insurance companies for the church and religious order are claiming that they do not owe insurance coverage for the claimed acts of abuse. In plain terms this means that even if the plaintiffs prevail, they may have to hope that the church has adequate assets, or tithing income, to satisfy their damages.
The story does not mention why the insurance companies are denying coverage in the Montana case, but a frequent reason for coverage denial in these cases involves common insurance policy language that excludes coverage for damages arising out of “intentional acts.” Obviously, molesting a child is an intentional act, however these cases usually involve allegations of negligent supervision or negligent background checking.
It goes without saying that any case involving child sexual abuse is a serious matter. However, the way that these cases are often defended makes it critical that they are handled by experienced counsel. If you have questions involving a Florida child sexual abuse case, call Winter Park child sexual abuse attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901.