California insurance companies may try to avoid defending personal injury claims against an insured by arguing that the conduct does not fall under the insured’s policy. This can greatly reduce a plaintiff’s chance of recovering for their injuries, because many defendants do not have adequate resources to fairly compensate plaintiffs for their injuries.
The California Supreme Court recently decided a case in which an insurance company argued that it was not required to defend a negligent hiring claim against an insured arising from an alleged sexual assault.
The Facts of the Case
A woman alleged that a construction company negligently hired, retained, and supervised an employee that she claimed had sexually abused her. She alleged that one of the construction company’s employees sexually abused her when she was a 13-year-old student while the employee was working on a construction project at her school. The construction company’s insurer argued that it was not required to defend the construction company in that suit. The insurer’s commercial general liability policy provided coverage for bodily injury that was caused by an “occurrence,” which the policy defined as an “accident.” The insurer reasoned that because in this case the employee intentionally injured the woman, the incident was not an accident, and thus was not covered under the policy.