Lawsuit over sex abuse insurance could have consequences for future cases, experts say

The Province and Canadian Press

February 21, 2018

A decade-long court battle between an insurance company and an Ontario Catholic diocese over coverage for settlements in sexual abuse cases could have wide-ranging consequences for victims and religious institutions involved in similar cases across Canada, legal experts say.

The Catholic Diocese of London filed a lawsuit against AXA Insurance Canada in 2008 claiming a breach of policy after the company refused to pay out claims related to settlements between the church and victims of two priests, Father Charles Sylvestre and Father John Harper, who were convicted of sexually abusing children.

The diocese argues it had liability insurance in the 1960s and early 1970s — when the abuse took place — that entitles it to payouts from AXA.

But the insurance company argues in its statement of defence that the diocese’s policy is void because church officials knew of, and failed to disclose, sexual abuse allegations levelled at Sylvestre before the insurance policy was enacted. AXA is further demanding the diocese return $10 million already paid out under the insurance policy.

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