Monday, November 12, 2007

Review granted in 'J.G. and R.G. v. Wangard'

This is an insurance coverage dispute that arises from a civil suit brought by a minor who was sexually assaulted by the defendant’s husband. The legal question is whether intentional acts of one insured should bar liability coverage for another negligent insured in the context of a criminal act committed by one spouse.

Some background: In 2003, Deborah Wangard learned that her husband, Steven, had been accused of sexually abusing a minor, one of the plaintiffs in this case. Steven eventually pled guilty to related criminal charges in Waukesha County Circuit Court and is now serving a five-year prison sentence. The plaintiff and her mother then sued the Wangards and their insurance liability carriers for compensatory and punitive damages.

The insurance companies obtained a declaratory judgment that they had no duty to defend Deborah in the civil lawsuit. The Court of Appeals affirmed [summarily, August 8, 2007].

A decision by the Supreme Court could resolve inconsistencies in existing case law and determine, in this case, if an umbrella provision in Deborah’s homeowner’s policy triggers a duty to defend.