Insurer tries to get out of paying

Insurer tries to get out of paying

An insurance company sued by the Archdiocese of Boston is filing a countersuit. Lumbermens Mutual Casualty says that not only should it not be forced to pay out any outstanding claims, but that it wants to be reimbursed for millions already paid out. The company claims that since sexual abuse incidents were not “accidents” then they shouldn’t be forced to pay.

“There is no coverage for damages which were the proximate result of the intentional criminal conduct of priests who committed acts of sexual abuse against minors,” the company argued in the counterclaim filed in US District Court in Boston.

Excuse me, but isn’t all sexual harassment criminal? How can you have an accidental sexual harassment? What’s the point of having sexual harassment insurance if it doesn’t cover actual incidents of harassment?

Even a lawyer for an abuse victim sides with the archdiocese on this one.

But Jeffrey A. Newman, the lawyer who represents many of the victims of clergy sexual abuse, said the claims filed on behalf of victims were based on negligence by church officials, not on the acts of individual priests, and therefore the insurers should be forced to pay for the settlements. “For them to say, “We don’t have to pay because these were criminal acts,’ is really avoidance, and it’s irrelevant,” Newman said. “I don’t think it has any merit.”

I hope the court sees this for what it is and throws it out.

Update: Having read the comments below and Diogenes’ analysis, I’m inclined to change my view of the situation and defer to them.

  • I do not believe that the existence of insurance coverage has been good for the Church.  It has allowed bishops and priests who knew of this on-going sexual abuse to assume financial coverage for it.  It might be quite a bit better to allow dioceses to go bankrupt from their negligence.  A reconstituted diocese would be a thousand times more careful in selecting men for the priesthood, training them, and in implementing policies which really protect children.  Without that safety net, sadly, our Church leadership would be, I suspect, much, much more careful about protecting children. Of course, as we can see, they may lose insurance coverage anyway.  What insurance company will insure Catholic dioceses against sexual predation at this point (or at what price)?  I’m on the side of the insurance company.  It’s being asked to pay up for gross negligence – on a widespread and abusive scale.  It’s been betrayed, just like we have.  It’s like asking an automobile insurance company to insure me against an accident, and then I go out and drive stone cold drunk night after night after night…

  • And where exactly would one worship in a bankrupt diocese since all the churches are owned by the diocese.

    US dioceses are now self-insuring. They pay into the National Catholic Risk Retention Group.

    An insurer takes a gamble when issuing a policy. They get paid a lot of money for coverage. If a valid claim is filed, that’s too bad. Insurance companies are among the weaseliest companies out there.

    I find it hard to believe—despite my cynicism at the behavior of perverts and enablers—that they carried out their predations because they knew insurance would cover it. I’m more likely to believe that Wee Willy motivated the abusers and fear of exposure motivated the bishops.

  • Sure – insurance coverage doesn’t prevent molesters from molesting – but it provides financial coverage to bishops who continually cover for and enable those molesters.  Knowing that one or two uninsured abuse cases could severely damage a diocese’s finances (rather than twenty or thirty) might sober up some bishops.  And where to worship?  In homes, in fields – just like in the old days (i.e. Rome).  But I suspect it’ll be a moot point.  If insurers get docked for the widespread malfeasance this time, they assuredly won’t fall for it in the future!  Either way, bishops will have to sober up.  It’s just sad that it’ll be finances that do it (rather than moral courage).