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Court summarily dismisses claim for coverage arising out of negligent supervision of child

Dorothy Robinson sued her homeowners insurer, the Auto Club, after a lawsuit was brought against her.  The lawsuit against her was brought by the Next Friend of a four-year-old boy who was molested in Robinson's home.  Robinson had sent the four-year old boy  and a 14 year-old boy to shower together, unsupervised.  The lawsuit claimed that she was negligent in failing to supervise the boys while they showered.

Robinson turned the case over to her homeowner's insurance, believing that she had coverage for negligence.  The Auto Club refused to provide coverage, pointing to two exclusions from coverage that are common in Michigan homeowners' policices.  One provision denied coverage for any claim of sexual assault, while a second exclusion denied coverage for any activity "in the nature of a criminal act."

Robinson argued that her behavior was merely negligent and neither sexually-oriented nor criminal.  The Court agreed with the insurer, however, and held that regardless of the nature of Robinson's culpability, if the underlying act fell within an exclusion, coverage could be denied.  Among other problems with this approach is the fact that one can argue that any negligent act that endangers a child, involves a firearm or alcohol, relates to a refrigerator with the closing mechanism intact, or touches upon areas governed by criminal negligence statutes, thereby abrogates the insurance coverage a homeowner has purchased.  In essence, homeowners are puchasing coverage that is completely illusory.  And, obviously, the doctrine denies an injured child any meaningful compensation for injury--even though coverage was purchased.

Nevertheless, while insurers dominate the Michigan Legislature and courts, this doctrine will continue to be applied as broadly as insurance companies' imaginations can stretch.  Not surprisingly, Judge Henry Saad was on the Court of Appeals' panel; his panel managed to summarily dismiss more than half a dozen complaints brought by injury victims and employees this month alone (we didn't go back to count the dismal opinions).

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