In Priest Sex Abuse Cases, a Sickening Calculation—and the Right Answer

April 3, 2017
The American Lawyer

Media Coverage

It's hard to say who has the moral high ground in a series of cases pitting the Catholic Church against its insurance companies over coverage of payments to victims of molestation.

On one hand, shouldn't any diocese that turned a blind eye to pedophile priests be punished monetarily? But what if that means that church goes bankrupt, with no assets left to pay the victims? Is that justice?


The diocese argues that its insurance policies dating back to 1958 require its insurers to pay "all sums that the diocese becomes legally obligated to pay as a result of bodily injury, as long as any part of the injury took place during the policy period," wrote Blank Rome partner James Murray, who heads the firm's insurance coverage practice.

The policies covered bodily injuries that were caused by "an occurrence." The language varies slightly by policy, but an occurrence is generally defined as "an accident or a continuous or repeated exposure to conditions which result during the policy period in personal injury."

Murray in an interview said that defining what constitutes an occurrence comes up in other insurance disputes as well, such as pollution cases.

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"In Priest Sex Abuse Cases, a Sickening Calculation—and the Right Answer," by Jenna Greene was published in The American Lawyer on April 3, 2017.