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American International Group Inc. has a duty to defend Bill Cosby in litigation charging him with defamation for denying several women’s sexual assault charges under his homeowners and personal excess liability policies, says a federal appeals court.
In 2014 and 2015, nine women filed three separate actions claiming Mr. Cosby had defamed them by publicly denying their sexual assault allegations, said Thursday’s ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in AIG Property Casualty Co. v. William H. Cosby Jr.
New York-based AIG initially agreed to defend him subject to a reservation of rights, then filed suit in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts, seeking a declaration that the policies’ “sexual misconduct” exclusions barred coverage.
Mr. Cosby contended that “the source of the women’s claimed injuries was not any alleged sexual misconduct, but rather the alleged defamatory statements,” said the ruling.
After a close examination of the policies’ language, a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit agreed with the lower court and held AIG is obligated to defend Mr. Cosby based on the more broadly worded sexual misconduct exclusion in the umbrella policy.
It added, however, that “out of caution we also note that this appeal decides only the question of coverage in providing defense to the policyholder. Coverage for any damages that may be awarded if the defense is unsuccessful could turn on facts beyond those pertinent here.”
Mr. Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault in April.
(Reuters) — Bill Cosby, citing financial pressures, asked a federal judge to dismiss or put on hold a lawsuit in which American International Group Inc. seeks to avoid paying for his defense against defamation claims by women who also accused him of sexual abuse.