Monday, June 24, 2013

Liberty University Sues Its Insurance Carrier for Refusing to Defend Federal Racketeering Lawsuit

Most universities and businesses maintain commercial package liability insurance policies that protect against claims that arise out of bodily injury and damage claims from everything for slip and fall types of claims to negligent maintenance of grounds and dorm facilities.  Such coverage does not typically cover federal racketeering charges and other claims based on illegal behavior and conduct by university staff.   Thus, it is no surprise that Hanover Insurance Co. refused to accept coverage for or to pay the defense litigation costs associated with a federal racketeering lawsuit arising from the Lisa Miller/Janet Jenkins (University Dean Matt Staver is pictured at left) custody drama involving the alleged kidnapping of a 10-year-old girl in the midst of a same-sex-marriage custody battle.  Wikipedia lays out the basis for Janet Jenkins' lawsuit against Liberty University:
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually do it.
As previous blog posts have noted, personnel at Liberty were seemingly involved in the plan to assist Lisa Miller to kidnap her daughter in defiance of both Vermont and Virginia Supreme Court Rulings. Both the ABA Journal and the Virginia Lawyers Weekly have coverage.  Here are highlights from the VLW:

Liberty University’s law school is asking a federal judge to force the school’s insurance company to come to its defense as it fights a federal racketeering lawsuit involving the alleged kidnapping of a 10-year-old girl in the midst of a same-sex-marriage custody battle.

LU law has filed a declaratory judgment action in Lynchburg federal court claiming Hanover Insurance Co. and its affiliates were wrong to deny coverage and a defense for the school in the lawsuit filed by Janet Jenkins.

In her Vermont lawsuit, Jenkins contends agents of Liberty’s law school conspired to aid the 2009 disappearance of then-10-year-old Isabella Miller. The girl and her birth mother, Lisa Miller, fled to Nicaragua with the help of a Virginia pastor who was convicted last summer of aiding an international kidnapping.

The insurance company says it does not owe coverage because Jenkins’ lawsuit does not claim bodily injury, property damage or “personal and advertising injury” under its policies. The insurer cites 18 other bases for denial.

A previous ABA Journal article described the involvement of the hysterically anti-gay Matt Staver:
Miller fled the country with the girl and they are still missing. An Amish-Mennonite pastor was convicted in August of aiding and abetting the kidnapping, ChristianNews.Net and Reuters reported at the time.

Miller had worked at Liberty Christian Academy, a school on the same campus as the law school. Jenkins' suit cites a phone call to Staver’s cellphone by the man who drove Miller to Canada, according to the Sentinel account. Staver says he didn’t speak to the driver that day, and has called Jenkins’ suit against the law school frivolous and outrageous, according to the Sentinel. He is not personally named as a defendant.
"I had no involvement in their departure, had no knowledge that they had departed or intended to depart," Staver told the Sentinel. "She just disappeared, and we couldn't reach her anymore."
Based on Staver's past statements and conduct, in my opinion, the only safe course of action with Staver is to assume that if his lips are moving, he's lying.  That sadly seems to be the norm with the "godly Christian" crowd.  I can only hope that Hanover Insurance prevails in this litigation.

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