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A CNA Financial Corp. unit has filed suit in New York Supreme Court in Buffalo seeking a declaration it has no obligation to defend or indemnify the Buffalo Diocese in sexual abuse charges.
“According to press reports, the Diocese has been accused of a decades-long pattern of covering up allegations of abuse and surreptitiously moving priest and other employees who had been accused of abuse to other parishes in order to avoid scrutiny,” says the complaint filed in Buffalo by CNA unit Continental Insurance Co. in The Continental Insurance Co. v. The Diocese of Buffalo on Oct. 3.
It states while neither the Diocese nor Continental has located copies of the alleged policies, information indicates the insurer’s predecessor company, Commercial Insurance Co. of Newark, New Jersey, may have issued coverage to the diocese between July 1973 and July 1976 and July 1977 and July 1978.
The complaint notes that state legislation signed into law in February, the Child Victims Act, reopens statutes of limitation with respect to certain child abuse claims, with a one-year window to bring otherwise expired claims that opened Aug. 14, 2019.
The complaint says according to news reports, plaintiffs have filed more than 165 lawsuits relating to alleged sexual abuse, and the diocese has sought coverage from Continental with respect to some of these lawsuits.
“Continental has no obligation to provide insurance coverage to the Diocese with respect to any sexual abuse claim, to the extent that the Diocese knew prior to the abuse,” the relevant priest had engaged in earlier sexual abuse, posed a danger to children and had a “propensity to commit sexual abuse,” which is alleged in certain of these lawsuits, according to the complaint.
CNA and Diocese spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
Liability insurers have paid only a fraction of U.S. Catholic dioceses' costs in clergy abuse cases, and coverage disputes have mirrored those in other types of latent injury cases.