Two Recurring Issues in Sexual Abuse Coverage Disputes: The Annualization of “Per Occurrence” Limits, and The Number of Occurrences

Blank Rome partners Jared Zola and Jim Murray, who serves as co-chair of the firm’s Insurance Recovery practice group, co-authored a paper on “Two Recurring Issues in Sexual Abuse Coverage Disputes: The Annualization of “Per Occurrence” Limits, and The Number of Occurrences,” prepared in connection with the American Bar Association’s 2023 Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee CLE Seminar, held March 1-4, 2023, where Jared served as a panel speaker.

Excerpt of paper below.


In many jurisdictions across the United States and beyond, legislatures are passing statutes that reopen the statute of limitations for previously time-barred claims by survivors of sexual abuse. In several instances, the statutes apply to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, but in others the statutes also allow sexual abuse survivors who were 18 years old or older when the abuse took place to assert claims even if the statute of limitations is otherwise long expired. States that have passed reviver statutes, sometimes called “window” statutes, include California, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, and New York, and many others are currently considering such legislation. The passage of these statutes inevitably leads to a spate of claims and lawsuits, alleging sexual abuse that happened years ago, against schools, universities, religious entities, medical institutions, athletic organizations, and other entities, which may be ill-prepared financially to absorb the enormous potential liability and costs to defend them.

Insurance coverage can play a crucial role in addressing sexual abuse claims in a manner that benefits both the survivors and the insured entities. To realize the full benefit of insurance, however, entities seeking coverage for sexual abuse claims frequently face a multitude of insurance coverage issues. This paper address two reoccurring coverage issue in the sexual abuse context: (1) multi-year insurance policies and whether the “per occurrence” limit of liability applies once for the entire span of the policy, or separately in each annual period of the policy; and (2) the applicable number of occurrences.

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