Catholic Diocese Challenges NJ Insurer’s Abuse Coverage Suit

In a legal showdown with high stakes, the Catholic Diocese of Trenton is fervently contesting a bold move by Century Indemnity Co. seeking an escape route from covering over 200 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy members. The diocese and its affiliated parishes are urging a New Jersey federal court to dismiss what they deem a “premature, vague, and ambiguous” coverage dispute.

The Gambit: A Premature Clash?

The diocese, in a motion to dismiss filed on Monday, argued that Century’s attempt to extricate itself from indemnifying the diocese is premature. They assert that the ongoing suits are still in the discovery phase, and crucially, no damages have been awarded against the diocese. The diocese contends that Century’s request for speculative relief could lead to inconsistent rulings, potentially prejudicing the diocese in fulfilling its moral and legal obligations to survivors of child sexual abuse.

NJ Insurer’s Abuse Coverage Suit: The Child Victims Act Fallout

The legal tussle sprouted from the enactment of New Jersey’s Child Victims Act in 2019, unleashing a flood of 550 sexual abuse claims and over 200 lawsuits against the diocese. The act extended the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims, with allegations spanning from the 1940s to the 2000s, involving improper sexual contact by diocese clergy, agents, and employees.

Century’s Allegations: A Clash of Intentions

Century, having provided general liability coverage to the diocese from 1957 to 1972, took a defensive stance with a reservation of rights. However, in a lawsuit filed in February, the insurer asserted that it bore no duty to indemnify the diocese, alleging that the diocese was aware of or expected sexual abuse of minors and failed to intervene. The insurer further claimed intentional conduct, contending that the diocese knowingly hired or neglected to supervise clergy with a history of abuse.

NJ Insurer’s Abuse Coverage Suit: A Pot-Pourri of Denial

The diocese countered on Monday, challenging Century’s ability to meet the standard for pleading that harm was “expected or intended.” Refuting Century’s claims, the diocese argued that the insurer’s complaint lacked specific allegations that any diocesan management member intended to cause harm to the plaintiffs.

Stalemate or Showdown: What Lies Ahead?

If the court refuses to dismiss Century’s lawsuit, the diocese contends that, at the very least, the case should be stayed until the resolution of the underlying suits. The diocese insists that the outcome of these suits will significantly impact or even determine the crucial “expected or intended” issue.

Representatives for both parties have not issued immediate comments as of Tuesday.

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