Insurance Company Sues Montana Diocese

July 31, 2012

An insurance company says it didn’t sell policies to the Helena-based Catholic Diocese of Montana and is not responsible for covering costs involved in defending former nuns and priests accused of child abuse ranging from the 1930s through the 1970s.

The Independent Record reports that Arrowood Indemnity Company has filed a federal lawsuit against the diocese seeking a declaratory judgment that it isn’t obligated to defend the diocese.

“Although the diocese presented Arrowood with over 700 pages of documents, there is not a single document that refers in any way to any general liability policy of insurance being issued by (Arrowood and its affiliates).” the lawsuit states.

Church and insurance company officials declined to comment about the specifics of the lawsuit. Two lawsuits have been filed in Lewis and Clark District Court contending the Helena diocese employed and protected clergy the diocese should have known were engaging in sexual abuse.

Court documents say the diocese also sought a defense from other insurance companies. It said Arrowood or one of its predecessors sold general liability insurance from 1940 through 1960 that covers the diocese for the abuse lawsuits.

Diocese spokeswoman Renee St. Martin Wizeman, while not commenting on the lawsuit by the insurance company, said the diocese’s attorney would seek to put the lawsuit on hold while both entities research historic documents.

“Arrowood is one of 16 insurance companies that we tendered claims to,” Wizeman said. “We are trying to go through our files, which are in various locations, looking to see what our records are as far as coverage goes.”

In the district court lawsuits against the diocese, individuals contend both male and female clergy engaged in abusive acts that included fondling, forced sodomy and an offer of cash for sex from the 1940s to the 1970s.

The Diocese of Helena has said that no priests currently at the diocese are named in the suits. Most of those accused are believed to be dead.

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