A Delaware judge refused to provide insurance cover for three teachers who were videotaped looking on as spectators and probably encouraging the fight whilst two toddlers were fighting each other at a day care centre.

Cover was rejected on the basis of an exclusion for molestation or abuse which read ‘this insurance does not apply to any injuries sustained by any person arising out of or resulting from alleged, threatened or actual molestation or abuse by any insured, any employee of any insured and any person performing volunteer services for or on behalf of any insured or any other person’.

The video came to light when there was an unrelated investigation into a stolen cellphone and the police chanced upon the video recording. The teachers were charged with endangering the welfare of the children, assault second-degree, and conspiracy second-degree. The parents of the children sued in a civil action and the day care centre and the teachers sought coverage under the policy.

The court applied the plain language meaning of the words ‘molestation’ and ‘abuse’. Molestation has a sexual connotation but ‘abuse’ can mean to ‘treat in a harmful or injurious way’ and was a word used differently from ‘molestation’ especially because the two terms were joined by the word ‘or’. Abuse can come in many forms and what happened was abuse of the children.

The court granted cover to the day care centre because they had bought back abuse coverage for an additional premium. This additional cover did not cover the three employees because they themselves committed the abuse and were excluded from coverage even under the extension.

This shows yet again how many people get into trouble because of videos of their own bad behaviour.

(U.S. Underwriters Insurance Co v The Hands of Our Future LLC)