Insurance company asserts no duty to defend in priest abuse suits


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A link to this story appeared in the 1.8.2013, issue of the NSAC News. Thank you, Steve Sheehan.

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Insurance company asserts no duty to defend in priest abuse suits

January 7, 2013 2:11 PM


A  pair of St. Clair County lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a former priest has spurred a battle over insurance coverage.

TIG Insurance Company on Monday filed a complaint in federal court, seeking declaratory judgment that it doesn’t have a duty to defend the Diocese of Belleville or former priest Raymond Kownacki in the underlying suits.

Brought by John Doe S.W. in 2011 and John Doe S. in July 2012, the two separate suits accuse Kownacki of sexual abuse in the 1980s, when they were both minors attending St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Valmeyer.

Kownacki, who is retired and lives in St. Louis, was removed from the ministry in the mid-90s after multiple allegations of sexual abuse were lodged against him.

Although the alleged abuse was reported, the plaintiffs in the two suits claim that the diocese didn’t discipline Kownacki and instead transferred him to a different parish after an allegation was made.

In the complaint for declaratory judgment, TIG claims that it does not have a duty to defend the diocese or Kownacki under the policy it issued to the diocese for the period between Dec. 31, 1986 and Dec. 1, 1987.

Under the policy, TIG agreed to pay all sums the diocese became legally obligated to pay as damages because of “bodily injury” caused by an “occurrence” and committed by the diocese in the conduct of clergy activities.

The insurance company contends that the claims in the underlying suits do not meet the definitions of “bodily injury” and “occurrence” as defined.

It further asserts that the policy includes exemptions for “bodily injury” resulting from sexual misconduct and child molestation.

The policy defines “bodily injury” as “bodily injury, sickness or disease sustained by a person” and “occurrence” as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.”

TIG further asserts that it is relieved from defending Kownacki and the diocese because they breached notice requirements of the policy.

Kownacki, according to the complaint, never notified TIG of the claims while the diocese did so in September, when it sought defense and indemnification.

Both John Doe S.W. and John Doe S. are named as defendants in the suit, but TIG said it does not seek any specific relief against them and only included them as defendants because they might have an interest in the outcome of the suit.

The insurance company noted that it would dismiss the two men as defendants if they agree to be bound the judgment in this action.

Timothy Muehleisen of SmithAmundsen in St. Louis submitted the complaint on TIG’s behalf, along with his colleagues, Heather Bub, Timothy Fagan and Rachael Winthrop.

This entry was posted in Federal CourtInsuranceNewsSt. Clair County and tagged Diocese of BellevilleRaymond KownackiTIG


    8 Responses to “Insurance company asserts no duty to defend in priest abuse suits”

  1. Michael Skiendzielewski Says:

    Now, that’s what we need a great deal more of………………..insurance companies letting US Catholic leadership hung out to dry.

  2. Michael Skiendzielewski Says:

    This kind of legal response from insurance companies is long overdue in response to the reckless disregard of the safety of our children by US Catholic leadership, lay and religious, throughout the United States. US Catholic leadership, in spite of verifiable, legitimate allegations of sexual abuse by its clergy, continued to place other children in harm’s way and for this immoral and selfish conduct, they should be held criminally and civilly liable (and not their insurance companies).

  3. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    i just about bust a gut when i read this article!!! tee hee hee…

    way to go insurance companies…RCC BUSTED!

  4. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    What insurance company’s should we write letters to for their support in not funding Catholic rapist priests and nuns?

  5. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Anybody can write a letter of support for TIG!



  6. Thomas Says:

    The Insurance companies nor the laity should be paying for criminal activity of the clergy…the bishops need to stand accountable for what they knew, what they did, and how they consealed criminals who went on to abuse time and time again. Sell all of the archbishop”s mansions and properties to pay off the debt. Christian leadership should not live high off the hog…it is shameful, and was never meant to be.

  7. Bob Schwiderski Says:

    Insurance companies don’t need our applause — they stand side by side with church leaders to oppose ANY and ALL efforts to correct the civil laws for childhood sexual abuse. Don’t pee on your shoes about this it’s just another fox in the hen house. Bob

  8. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    maybe so but there’s got to be a little bit of sun in the world…it’s kinda like saying lets you and them fight…kinda like being QUEEN FOR A DAY!

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