Homeowner's insurance does not cover failure to prevent sexual abuse: Wisconsin court

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Wisconsin [official website] on Wednesday ruled [opinion text, PDF] that a homeowner's insurance policy does not cover a wife's negligence in not preventing her husband, who was covered by the same policy, from sexually abusing a child. With a 4-3 decision in J.G. v. Wangard [case history; oral argument audio], the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Waukesha County Circuit Court [official website] that Deborah Wangard's alleged negligence was not covered by either of the couple's homeowner's policies issued by Great Northern Insurance Co. [corporate website] or Pacific Indemnity Insurance Co. [corporate website] because her husband, Steven Wangard, caused injury through an intentional act. The Court rejected the wife's argument that the language of the insurance contract was ambiguous and that she had a reasonable expectation of coverage. Following precedents and referring to the express language of the policy, the Court explained:

We agree with the analysis in Taryn E.F. and conclude that Great Northern and Pacific's use of the phrase "any covered person" in the policies' intentional acts exclusions, like the phrase "any insured" in the Taryn E.F. policy, unambiguously precludes coverage for all insureds.

[T]he policies in question unambiguously state that personal injury damages "arising out of" the intentional acts of "any covered person" are excluded from coverage. Deborah cannot reasonably argue that this policy language should be construed to cover the damages arising out of the intentional sexual contact with J.G. by her husband Steven, a covered person. In addition, as the court of appeals recognized in Jessica M.F., an insured cannot reasonably expect coverage for harms resulting from sexual assaults committed by one's spouse.
AP has more.

In October 2004 Steven Wangard plead guilty to second-degree sexual assault of a child. He admitted to having sexual contact with a minor, referred to as J.G., from 2000 to 2003 at two residences that were insured by polices from Great Northern and Pacific Indemnity insurance companies. Steven Wangard was sentenced to five years in prison for the offense, while a civil lawsuit [case details] against the couple in Waukesha county is set to resume in August.


 

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