United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
following matter is before the court on plaintiff Allstate
Vehicle and Property Insurance Company's
(“Allstate”) motion for summary judgment, ECF No.
34. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants the
motion for summary judgment.
an insurance coverage case. It arises out of the alleged
sexual assault of minor Jane Doe (“Doe”) by
Joseph Stephen Hunter (“Joseph Hunter”), the
husband of Rose Wadford Hunter (“Rose Hunter”).
According to the complaint, Rose and Joseph Hunter were
Doe's neighbors in Bluffton, South Carolina when the
abuse and harassment occurred. Joseph Hunter began to
sexually assault Doe in 2006, when Doe was seven years old.
He continued to do so until 2015, when Doe was 16 years old.
During this period, Joseph Hunter exposed himself to Doe,
forced Doe to masturbate Joseph Hunter, and made Doe perform
and receive oral sex. Joseph Hunter videotaped and
photographed Doe performing these sex acts. On January 5,
2016 Joseph Hunter was arrested on charges of first and third
degree child molestation. The complaint alleges that Rose
Hunter was aware of her husband's sexual proclivities
concerning young girls yet continued to encourage
interactions between Doe and Joseph Hunter including
sleepovers. The complaint further alleges that after Joseph
Hunter's arrest, Rose Hunter posted comments on the
social networking site Facebook “disparaging,
denigrating, and defaming” Doe's mother Mary Roe
(“Roe”) as a “sorry mother.” This
type of behavior was, the complaint alleges, part of a
pattern of behavior that Rose Hunter engaged in to discredit
victims of Joseph Hunter's abuse.
through Roe, brought suit against Rose Hunter in state court
entitled Jane Doe, by and through her mother and natural
Guardian Ad litem, Mary Roe, and Mary Roe, individually,
C.A. No. 2016-CP-07-1541 (“the underlying suit”).
Doe alleges that as the result of Joseph Hunter's
actions-and Rose Hunter's inactions in the face of the
abuse-Doe has received substantial medical, therapeutic, and
counseling expenses. Doe suffers from, and likely will
continue to suffer from, psychological distress including
depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Doe levies
causes of action for negligence/gross
negligence/recklessness, defamation, breach of fiduciary
duty, and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty.
issued a homeowner's policy, Policy No. 990100794
(“the Policy”), to the Hunters, with an effective
date of June 16, 2015. The relevant provisions of the Policy
are the family liability protection and guest medical
protection provisions. The family liability protection
we cover under Coverage X:
Subject to the terms, conditions and limitations of this
policy, we will pay damages which an insured person becomes
legally obligated to pay because of bodily injury or property
damages arising from an occurrence to which this policy
applies, and is covered by this part of the policy.
Policy defines an “insured person” as “you
and, if a resident of your household: a) any relative; and b)
any dependent person in your care, ” and further
defines “you” and “your” as
“the person listed under Named Insured(s) on the Policy
Declarations as the insured and that person's resident
spouse.” The Policy goes on to define an
“occurrence” to mean “an accident,
including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially
the same general harmful conditions during the policy period,
resulting in bodily injury or property damage.” And
finally, “bodily injury” is defined as
“physical harm to the body, including sickness or
disease . . . .” The Policy also includes a number of
exclusions from coverage. Most saliently, it includes an
intentional acts exclusion:
we do not cover under Coverage X:
We do not cover any bodily injury or property damage intended
by, or which may reasonably be expected to result from the
intentional or criminal acts or omissions of, any insured
person. This exclusion applies even if:
a) Such insured person lacks the mental capacity to govern
his or her conduct;
b) Such bodily injury or property damage is of a different
kind or degree than intended or reasonably expected; or
c) Such bodily injury or property damage is sustained by a
different person than intended or reasonably expected.
is currently defending Rose Hunter in the underlying action,
subject to a reservation of rights.
February 8, 2017 Allstate filed this suit, asking the court
to declare that Allstate is not required to provide coverage
for any of Doe's injuries. Specifically, Allstate
contends that the Policy does not provide coverage because:
(1) allegations of sexual abuse do not constitute an
“occurrence” as defined under the Policy; (2) all
or some of the allegations of the sexual abuse did not happen
during the policy period; and (3) the allegations of sexual
abuse in the underlying action arise from the intentional and
criminal acts of Joseph Hunter, placing the acts within the
Policy's intentional acts exclusion.
filed a motion for summary judgment on March 12, 2018. ECF
No. 34. Defendants filed a response on March 26, 2018, ECF
No. 36, and Allstate filed a reply on April 9, 2018, ECF No.
41. The court held a hearing on the motion on May 15, 2018.
On June 7, 2018, the court entered an order deferring its
ruling with regard to the negligence and breach of fiduciary
duty claims and instead certifying a question of state law to
the Supreme Court of South Carolina. ECF No. 48. In its
order, the court also held that there was no coverage for
defamation under the Policy. Id. at 16. Then on
December 13, 2018, the court entered a text order denying
without prejudice the motion for summary judgment pending the
outcome of the certified ...