In Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Co., Inc. (No. S236765, filed 6/4/18) (L&M), the California Supreme Court ruled that the liability insurance requirement that injury be caused by an “occurrence,” defined as an “accident,” does not preclude coverage of an employer’s independent tort liability for injury deliberately caused by its employee.
In L&M, Liberty insured a construction company that contracted to manage a construction project at a middle school in San Bernardino, California. A 13-year-old student subsequently sued the company in state court, alleging that she had been sexually molested by a company employee, Hecht. Among others, she alleged a cause of action for negligent hiring, retention and supervision of the employee. The construction company tendered to Liberty, which defended the employer under a reservation of rights while seeking declaratory relief in federal court. The district court granted summary judgment for Liberty, ruling that the injury was not caused by an “occurrence.” On appeal, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals certified the question to the California Supreme Court as a matter of state law.
Reprinted courtesy of Christopher Kendrick, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and Valerie A. Moore, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
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