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Indy archdiocese can’t collect sex-abuse legal fees from insurer

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An insurance company won’t have to pay the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ legal fees and costs associated with defending claims of sexual abuse.

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Thursday dismissed with prejudice the archdiocese’s claim for $250,000 from Travelers Insurance. A final judgment will be issued accordingly.

The archdiocese sued two insurers in Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis v. Travelers Insurance Co. and Gallagher Bassett Insurance Services, 1:12-CV-JMS-DKL. The archdiocese claimed breach of contract because Travelers denied coverage for legal fees associated with the claims of 16 people who said they were molested by a Jeffersonville priest in the 1950s and 1960s. The claims alleged negligence and fraudulent concealment of abuse, among other things.

Travelers moved to dismiss in October on grounds the archdiocese failed to timely notify the insurer of the alleged sex-abuse victims’ claims that arose beginning in 2002 and ultimately were resolved in June 2006, when the claims in Clark Circuit Court were dismissed because they exceeded the statute of limitations.

The archdiocese claimed it was entitled to relief from Travelers “because of the unique circumstances that hindered the Archdiocese from providing immediate notice.”

“It is undisputed that the Archdiocese did not notify Travelers of the Underlying Actions until July 30, 2007, over a year after the actions had been resolved,” Magnus-Stinson wrote. “Because Travelers does not have any obligation to the Archdiocese until it was first notified of the Underlying Actions, and all of the defense fees and costs were incurred prior to the Archdiocese’s tender of notice of Travelers on July 30, 2007, Travelers is not responsible for defense fees and costs incurred prior to that time as a matter of law.”

Eight men and eight women sued the archdiocese between 2002 and 2004, claiming they were abused between 1953 and 1969 by Rev. Albert Deery, pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Jeffersonville. Deery died in 1972.

There has been no ruling to date on the claim against Gallagher Bassett, the archdiocese’s other named liability carrier.
 

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