03/04/2009 04:14:08 PM EST
John Mumford and Kathryn E. Kransdorf on “Insurance 101–Insights for Young Lawyers: Still No Certainty–Determining the Number of Occurrences in the Context of Multiple Injuries Caused by a Single Perpetrator”
The question of how many “occurrences,” as that term is used in commercial general
liability (“CGL”) policies, transpired when one perpetrator has caused multiple injuries is quite significant in more than one respect. In an article, appearing in the November/December 2008 issue of Coverage, the publication of the Committee on Insurance Coverage Litigation (ICLC) of the ABA’s Section of Litigation, the authors explain, “This is because the term is operative in both the coverage language of the policy and in the language addressing the calculation of limits of insurance (as well as deductibles).” Yet the courts have not come up with a uniform answer in over 50 years of litigation. The article describes the two tests the courts have used in interpreting CGL policies to arrive at the number of “occurrences” that transpired in the cases before them: the “effect approach” and the “cause approach.” Although the courts now have largely settled upon the latter test, this is not dispositive of the issue, because the courts have differed in how they have applied the cause approach. This article analyzes pertinent court decision illustrating these differences in two genres of cases: those involving shootings of multiple individuals and those involving alleged child molestation claims. The article concludes with a discussion of the consequences and opportunities for practitioners in having this critical issue still unsettled in the law.