In its recent decision Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., 2011 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6432 (2d Dep’t. Sept. 20, 2011), a New York appellate level court had occasion to consider various coverage issues arising out of a sexual molestation claim; specifically, number of occurrences and allocation of loss.

The claimant in the underlying suit alleged that she had been molested for a period of seven years “at different times during the day and week, and at multiple locations.” While the insured had primary general liability coverage available for each of these years, each of the policies had a sizable self-insured retention.  This prompted the insured to contend to the position that the underlying matter, which settled for $2 million, could be allocated solely to two of the triggered policy periods, based on a “joint and several” allocation theory.  The trial court held against the insured, holding that the loss was properly allocated among all triggered policy years, and that the insured was responsible to pay the fully retention amount in each of those years.

On appeal, the court agreed with the lower court, noting that a “joint and several” theory of allocation had long since been rejected by New York courts (see e.g., Consolidated Edison Co. of N.Y. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 746 N.Y.S.2d 622 (N.Y. 2002)) and was “inconsistent with the unambiguous language of the … policies providing coverage for bodily injury that resulted from an occurrence ‘during the policy period.’”  The court explained that it was not possible to isolate what extent of the underlying plaintiff’s injury happened during any single policy period, and as such, the appropriate method of allocation was on a pro rata basis across each of the policy periods.   Central to the court’s decision in this regard was its finding that the molestation could not be considered a single occurrence, but rather multiple occurrences since “it cannot be said that there was a close temporal and spatial relationship between the acts of sexual abuse.”  As such, the court concluded, each of the insured’s policies over the entire seven-year period was triggered and the insured was be responsible for satisfying a full self-insured retention in each of these periods.