Insurer Owes No Duty to Priest Facing Sex-Abuse Suit, Federal Judge Rules

By David Heckelman
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
May 25, 1995

An insurance company was not obligated to defend a Catholic priest against a civil suit alleging that he sexually abused five young boys, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Richard Mills held that Maryland Casualty Co. liability policies covering the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield and Bishop Daniel Ryan did not require the company to defend Father Joseph Havey against the complaint filed by John Doe," James Doe," John Smith," John Brown" and John Jones."

Relying on the inferred intent" rule adopted by the Illinois Appellate Court, Mills said the policies excluded coverage for the alleged abuse as an intentionally caused injury.

He said that in three cases involving the sexual abuse of minors, the appeals courts found that they were required to hold as a matter of law that the abuser had intended to harm the victim. Those cases are State Farm Fire & Casualty v. Watters, 644 N.E.2d 492 (1994), Western States Insurance v. Bobo, 644 N.E.2d 486 (1994), and Scudder v. Hanover Insurance Co., 559 N.E.2d 559 (1990),

While noting that the Illinois Supreme Court had not ruled on the issue, Mills determined that the high court also would adopt the inferred intent rule.

He indicated in a footnote that the Supreme Court had denied petitions for leave to appeal in Watters and Bobo.

And because the policies specifically excluded claims based on harm intended by the insured, Mills granted Maryland Casualty's motion for summary judgment and denied a similar motion filed by Havey.

The ruling Monday also found that an additional clergy malpractice" count in the plaintiffs' complaint failed to bring the matter within coverage, because such actions have not been recognized in Illinois.

Havey's attorney, Carol Posegate of Springfield, said Thursday that she did not know whether her client would appeal.

The plaintiffs filed suit in Sangamon County Circuit Court in 1993 against the diocese and Havey, alleging that Havey had abused them during the years 1978-1981, while they were about 11 or 12 years old.

Havey referred the claim to Maryland Casualty, which agreed to defend the diocese but not Havey.

The insurance company filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Springfield seeking a declaratory judgment indicating that no duty to defend Havey was owed.

One of the attorneys for the diocese, Aaron Shepley of Chicago, noted that the Circuit Court had dismissed the plaintiffs' action on the basis of the statute of limitations.

He noted, however, that the plaintiffs still might appeal that ruling to the 4th District Appellate Court.

Two similar cases filed by anonymous plaintiffs John Black" and John Green" currently are pending against Havey and the diocese in the circuit court.

Shepley and Kevin T. Martin, attorneys with Swanson, Martin & Bell, represent the bishop and the diocese.

The attorneys for the Doe" plaintiffs, Florence Bain of Springfield and Douglas Forsyth of Clayton, Mo., could not be reached for comment.

The federal case is Maryland Casualty Co. v. Joseph Havey, et al., No. 94-3057.


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