Insurer Doesn’t Have to Pay for Miss. Pastor’s Sex Charge Defense

September 6, 2007

State Farm Insurance Co. does not have to pay to defend the Rev. Jeffery Stallworth of Jackson, Miss., from a civil lawsuit filed by a Maryland woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2001 in her home, a federal judge has ruled.

Stallworth also was fined $800 Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate for being two hours late for a hearing.

State Farm had denied Stallworth the coverage under three policies to fight the woman’s $10 million lawsuit and asked Wingate for a judgment in its favor.

The insurance company said Stallworth wasn’t covered because of what it said was an “intentional act” that didn’t fall under his duties as a minister, according to court documents.

Insurance company attorney Wayne Doss of Tupelo said State Farm had no duty to provide coverage for legal expenses for Stallworth because the woman’s accusations didn’t involve an accident. The policies had exclusions for intentional acts, Doss said.

“We are talking about allegations of rape and sexual assault,” Doss said. “We aren’t talking about someone slipping and falling.”

Stallworth pleaded guilty in 2002 to a misdemeanor fourth-degree sex offense of touching. Under terms of the plea agreement, he was sentenced in a Maryland courtroom to two years’ probation.

At Stallworth’s request, a Maryland judge reviewed his criminal case in 2005 and agreed to remove his conviction and sentence if he completed one year of probation.

At the time of the incident, Stallworth was pastor of Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson, and the church had a policy with State Farm. Also, Stallworth had a homeowner’s policy with the company and a separate personal umbrella liability policy.

Stallworth told Wingate he purchased the policies with the understanding he would be covered if anything went wrong in the clergy. He said State Farm got his money from 1994 until the company dropped him in 2003.

“Now that I need State Farm, they are nowhere to be found,” Stallworth said.

Stallworth said he should be covered under one of the policies because the Maryland woman alleged personal injury. He also said what happened could be considered an accident.

“The whole thing was an accident. There was not an intent to find myself in this way,” he said.

Stallworth, 49, is now pastor of Word and Worship Church in Jackson.

Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,

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