In Becker v. Farmington Casualty Company, the insured’s husband sexually molested her grandchild while the grandchild was being babysat by the insured at her house. The only claim against the insured was a claim of negligence, with the allegation being that her negligent acts or omissions allowed her husband to commit the acts of molestation.
The insured contacted the insurer, asking it to defend and indemnify her under her homeowner’s policy, which generally covered personal liabilities sounding in negligence. The insurer denied coverage, citing three reasons for denial under the contract: (1) the heart of the suit was intentional harm committed by one of the insureds, (2) claims linked to sexual molestation were specifically excluded from coverage, and (3) the nature of the victim’s injury was emotional or psychological. The insured then filed suit, alleging breach of contract and bad faith by the insurer in denying coverage.
The court only had to find in favor of the insurer for one of its three stated reasons for denial, and it focused on the exclusion of coverage for intentional injuries caused by an insured. After discussing precedent, the court determined that insurance contract unambiguously excluded the insureds from coverage for intentional harm committed by any of the insureds under a policy, and therefore the female insured was not entitled to coverage as a matter of contract law. Therefore, the court granted the insurer’s motion to dismiss the breach of contract and bad faith claims.
Date of Decision: July 22, 2010
Becker v. Farmington Cas. Co., Civil Action No. 1:08-CV-2228, United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73902 (M.D. Pa. July 22, 2010) (Conner, J.)