Summary Judgment – No Duty to Defend Claim for Negligent Supervision Resulting In Sexual Abuse  

Attorney Joe Postel won summary judgment after the court declared his client did not owe a duty to defend or indemnify its named insured against a claim that her negligent supervision of her husband resulted in the sexual abuse of their step-great granddaughter.  

Our client, Metropolitan Casualty Ins. Co. (“Met”), issued a homeowners’ policy to Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner.  Mr. Homeowner was convicted in Madison County and imprisoned for criminal sexual abuse of his step-great granddaughter, Jane Doe, who was under the age of 13.

Jane and her mother Mary Doe filed a civil suit in Madison County against Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner.  No party denied that Mr. Homeowner’s coverage was excluded as an “expected or intended injury,” since it is well settled that, as a matter of law, an insured who sexually abuses a minor expects or intends to injure the minor. 

The dispute was over coverage for Mrs. Homeowner, whom the Does sued for negligent supervision.  The Does’ attorney omitted from his complaint any allegation that Mrs. Homeowner knew about any prior sexual abuse of Jane Doe by Mr. Homeowner, apparently hoping to avoid triggering Met’s exclusion for expected or intended injury.  In his MSJ, however, Postel argued that whether the complaint alleged it or not, the fact is that in order to prevail at trial, the Does would have to prove that Mrs. Homeowner knew about specific conduct of Mr. Homeowner in the past that would put her on notice of the need to supervise Mr. Homeowner, and that proof of this element of the tort of negligent supervision would necessarily also prove that she had reason to expect this type of injury to Jane Doe; therefore, Met’s exclusion for expected or intended injury applied.

The court agreed with Met’s argument and granted the motion, finding and declaring that Met has no duty to defend or indemnify Mrs. Homeowner.  The court stated as follows:  “In order to prevail in the state complaint as to the negligent supervision claim against [Mrs. Homeowner], the [Does] must necessarily prove the first prong of the negligent supervision standard—[Mrs. Homeowner]’s awareness of any prior conduct by [Mr. Homeowner] sufficient to put her on notice that further abuse was likely to occur. In doing so, the [Does] will have proven facts that demonstrate that the loss is outside the coverage of the insurance policy and therefore there is not a duty to defend.”

Metropolitan Cas. Ins. Co. v. G.D., United States District Court, Southern District of Illinois, case no. 15 C 328 (Feb. 1, 2016)