Homeowner's insurer need not defend claim arising out of "negligent supervision" leading to one child's molestation of another
Renee Boyle was sued by the family of 5-year old "John Doe" after she allowed 13-year-old Michael Hand to accompany the youngster to a beachhouse restroom at a public beach in Traverse City. In the restroom, Doe was molested by the older boy. The young boy's family sought to hold Boyle accountable for the resulting injuries, and to hold Citizens Insurance Company, Boyle's homeowner's insurer, responsible for payment, since under its policy, Citizens had agreed to cover Boyle's "negligence" or failure to exercise "due care." Citizens, defended the claim by reference to a clause in its policy that excluded coverage arising out of "sexual molestation."
The Court drew upon a long history of cases in Michigan recognizing an insurer's right to exclude coverage arising out of certain types of intentional or criminal acts---even if the actual claim against the insured is one of negligence. Indeed, during the past decade, judges have even, on occasion, allowed insurers to exempt themselves from liabilty for injuries caused by "criminal acts" that are purely negligent with no evidence of "intent." In this case, the Court held that while intent cannot be inferred, under the law, when one child molests another child, Citizens was within its rights in excluding from coverage any claim that arises out of "sexual molestation," regardless of intent.