Intentional Acts Exclusion – Sexual Molestation

Attorneys in Weatherford who handle insurance claims need to be aware of the exclusions that apply to home owners policy. One of those exclusions is an exclusion for intentional acts. The courts have interpreted sexual molestation to be an intentional act as a matter of law. The 1996, Houston Court of Appeals case, J.E.M. v. Fidelity & Casualty Company is the case to know about. Here is some of the relevant information.
Fidelity issued a standard homeowner’s policy to the home owners. The policy included coverage for personal liability, but excluded coverage for bodily injury or property damage caused intentionally by or at the direction of the insured or to sickness or disease transmitted through sexual contact.
J.E.M. and S.J.B. sued the home owners. The petition alleges that James B. sexually abused his stepdaughter, J.E.M., in 1977, 1978, and 1979. The petition also alleges that James B. sexually abused his step-grandson, J.B., Jr., during December 1990, and that the sexual abuse was “either intentional torts or the result of uncontrolled sexual urges brought about by an underlying psychosexual disorder.” The petition states that James B. “was negligent in failing to inform other responsible adults of his conduct, in failing to seek professional held, and in continuing to allow himself to be alone with his stepdaughter and step-grandson.”
The home owners demanded Fidelity provide them a defense in the sexual abuse lawsuit according to the terms of their homeowner’s policy. Fidelity agreed to defend them under a reservation of rights.
Another of the home owners’ insurers filed a declaratory judgment action to construe the terms of its policy. Fidelity intervened and J.E.M. and S.J.B. were added to that suit. Fidelity moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted, declaring (1) that the policy provided no coverage to the home owners for J.E.M.’s and S.J.B.’s claims, and (2) that Fidelity had no duty to defend them.
The plaintiffs contend the trial court erred by ruling that Fidelity had no duty to defend the home owner against allegations of sexual abuse. Specifically, the plaintiffs argue that although the home owner may have intended the “touching incidents” that give rise to the sexual abuse allegations, he did not intend to cause any injury. Absent an intent to injure, the plaintiffs argue, exception (5) to the personal liability coverage does not apply.
The petition in this case alleges that the home owner had sexual intercourse with his stepdaughter while she was a minor residing in his home. The petition also alleges that the home owner committed “varied and sordid sexual offenses” against his six-year-old step-grandson. The homeowners policy at issue excludes coverage for bodily injury “caused intentionally by or at the direction of the insured.” Because intent to injure can be inferred, the policy provides no coverage.
The result here excludes the possibility of the injured party being able to get counseling and other compensation for the harms caused unless the defendants have financial resources other than the insurance policy.