Connecticut Court Holds Sexual Molestation Limitation Applicable

In its recent decision in Metropolitan Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Briggs, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74885 (D. Conn. May 29, 2013), the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut had occasion to consider a homeowner’s insurer had a duty to defend its insured in connection with an underlying suit alleging sexual molestation.
The insured was alleged to have sexually assaulted a minor, while in the insured’s home, on repeated occasions during a two-year period. The lawsuit alleged numerous physical and emotional injuries resulting from these incidents. The insured sought a defense in connection with the suit from his homeowner’s insurer, Metropolitan Property & Casualty. The Metropolitan policy provided coverage for bodily injury resulting from an occurrence. The policy’s definition of bodily injury, however, expressly carved-out the following categories of harm:
a.   any of the following which are transmitted by you to any other person: disease, bacteria, parasite, virus or other organism; or
b.   the exposure to any such disease, bacteria, parasite, virus or other organism by you to any other person; or
c.   the actual, alleged or threatened sexual molestation of a person.
Metropolitan denied coverage to its insured on the basis that sexual molestation was an excluded category of bodily harm. The insured, on the other hand, argued that the definition of bodily injury only excluded coverage for the “act” of sexual molestation, but did not exclude coverage for the harm resulting from molestation. Specifically, the insured argued that “bodily injuries sustained as a result of sexual molestation should be covered by the policy,” at least for duty to defend purposes.
The court found the insured’s reading of the policy unreasonable, concluding that the insured’s strained interpretation of the policy definition of bodily injury would render moot all of the carved-out categories of harms. As the court explained:
In addition to sexual molestation, the exclusionary provision excludes from the definition of bodily injury: disease, bacteria, parasite, virus or other organism. If we extend defendant's reasoning to these other excluded categories, insureds would be covered for bodily injury as a result of disease, bacteria, parasite, virus or other organism, despite that disease, bacteria, parasite, virus or other organism themselves, like sexual molestation, are clearly and explicitly excluded from coverage. This would render the exclusionary provision virtually meaningless.
Thus, finding that the only reasonable interpretation of the policy is that bodily injury resulting from sexual molestation is not an insured category of loss, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Metropolitan.

Topics:  Duty to Defend, Homeowner's Insurance, Insurers, Sexual Abuse

Published In: General Business Updates, Insurance Updates, Personal Injury Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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