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Legal Memorandum: Inferred Intent Rule

Issue: Whether a Plaintiff’s Claim Is based on an ‘Accident’ and His Injuries Were ‘Intended or Expected’ Pursuant to the Inferred Intent Rule.

Area of Law: Insurance Law
Keywords: Inferred intent rule; Intentional conduct
Jurisdiction: Vermont
Cited Cases: 777 A.2d 151
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2006

“Commercial General Liability” (CGL) policies in general, contain a coverage “trigger,” i.e., an event that must occur before the Insurer’s obligation to provide coverage arises.  See Northern Sec. Ins. Co. v. Perron, 777 A.2d 151, 155 (Vt. 2001). 

            See generally James A. Serritella, Insurance Coverage Issues in Cases of Clergy Misconduct, 39 Cath. Law. 55, 55-56 (1999); Kathy A. Tatane, Sexual Abuse Litigation, 31 Trial 66, 67 (Feb. 1995); Janet K. Colaneri & Delinda R. Johnson, Coverage for Parents’ Sexual Abuse, 34 For The Defense 2, 4 (Mar. 1992).

            Although in cases outside the sexual abuse field it is usually a question of fact whether the injury that results from an intentional act is itself “expected or intended from the standpoint of the insured,” it is not a question of fact when the act is sexual abuse performed by an adult perpetrator on a minor victim.  TBH v. Meyer, 716 A.2d 31, 33-34 (Vt. 1998).  In TBH Vermont made clear it was in the majority of jurisdictions to adopt the “inferred intent rule;” that is, under this rule Vermont courts will infer intent or expectation to injure as a matter of law when an adult sexually abuses a child.  Perron, 777 A.2d at 159.  No evidence to the contrary will be permitted because “[u]nder the so-called inferred intent rule, courts conclusively presume intent to harm based on the nature and character of the insured’s alleged acts, regardless of whether the insured […]

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