Recently, I attended the Perrin Conference on Sexual Abuse Litigation and Insurance Coverage in New York City, co-chaired by my colleague Elizabeth Hanke. An annual event for Perrin Conferences since 2020, this year’s panels reinforced the need for continuing conversations on this heartbreaking, but critical, area of insurance litigation.
The day opened with an update on statute of limitations and reviver window laws across the country, including the anticipation of significant claims expected to be filed under the soon-to-open window created by New York’s Adult Survivors Act. As survivors and advocates continue to press for revisions to these laws, organizations that have experienced some claim activity in the past—particularly those who work with youths—should prepare for additional claims. Many eyes are set on Pennsylvania, a state that has well-documented history of egregious abuse by clergy, and where advocates continue to push for changes.
Several panels stressed the importance of proactively locating potentially responsive insurance policies before any claims are even received. Insurers’ records may be difficult to access because of personnel shortages, the lack of indexes and electronic copies of documents, the simple passage of time ,and even COVID restrictions. To avoid a scenario of a long delay while coverage searches are conducted and claims begin to come in, insureds need to plan ahead.
The search for coverage itself can be thorny, particularly with religious organizations. Understanding named insureds, additional insureds, and which organizations are actually responsible for particular locations can be a challenge—both in locating policies and securing coverage.
For organizations already facing significant claim volume, obtaining and tracking quality data is a must. Information on the abuser, where the abuse occurred, the nature of the abuse, whether it was reported to the organizations, and other datapoints are critical for determining legal strategy and claims valuation.
Some religious and youth organizations are already in the thick of litigation, while others may only be at the nascent stages of confronting it. The ongoing reckoning of child sex abuse continues to raise numerous data and coverage issues for impacted organizations and requires ongoing vigilance, not only to prevent future abuse from occurring, but also to pursue insurance as a means to compensate survivors.
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Nick Sochurek has extensive experience in leading complex insurance policy reviews and analysis for a variety of corporate policyholders using relational database technology.Learn More About Nicholas