Could Sexual Harassment be a Professional Liability Issue?
The issue of sexual harassment is not typically associated with professional liability insurance coverage. However, as some cases have some to surface which intertwine sexual abuse and professionalism, the question has been raised; should coverage extend to these claims under specific circumstances? In the following case, Errors and Omissions Insurance Program was required to respond to the sexual harassment claims against this professional.
As the Connecticut Supreme Court stated, “when a medically negligent procedure so inextricably intertwined and inseparable from the intentional conduct that serves as the basis for the separate claim of a sexual assault, we join with those jurisdictions that conclude that professional liability policies must, in such instances, extend coverage.” This was a case involving an endocrinologist in Connecticut by the name of Dr. George Reardon and his alleged sexual misconduct of his minor patients. Reardon used the hospital and their finances to conduct this ongoing assault for decades. As Reardon used the hospital to conduct his indiscretions, the hospital was found liable for the $2.75 million payout that the jury awarded the victim.
According to Lexis Nexis, the court does not allege that a person who happened to be a medical professional abused children on his days off, or even that he opportunistically abused his patients at the Hospital, but rather that he devised a long-term medical study to be carried out under the Hospital’s imprimatur and ostensibly under its professional supervision and that a principal purpose of that study was to find and abuse his victims.
Therefore, in circumstances in which the conduct and the intention are so closely related, professional liability coverage will be required to supplement any claims made. While sexual harassment is a sensitive issue, your clients should be protected with the proper insurance to prevent these potential claims from devastating their business.
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