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D.M.A. v. Hungerford

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

February 23, 2016

D.M.A. by Next Friend, TINA PARSLEY-HUGHES, Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL HUNGERFORD, Defendant, and MISSOURI UNITED SCHOOL INSURANCE COUNCIL, Respondent

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County. Honorable Jon A. Cunningham.

         FOR APPELLANT: Matthew B. Heath, Trial Attorney, LLC, Kansas City, Missouri.

         FOR RESPONDENT: Daniel E. Sakaguchi, Jonathan R. Shulan, Laurence R. Tucker, Armstrong, Teasdale, LLP, St. Louis, Missouri.

         FOR DEFENDANT: Steven B. Garner, Strong Garner Bauer, PC, Springfield, Missouri.

          OPINION

Page 684

          Philip M. Hess, J.

         Introduction

         In this insurance coverage dispute, D.M.A. (Plaintiff) appeals the Circuit Court of St. Charles County's order and judgment granting the Missouri United School Insurance Counsel's (MUSIC) motion for summary judgment and denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. In a single point on appeal, Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in granting MUSIC's motion for summary judgment because, contrary to the trial court's interpretation, the policy covered sexual misconduct. We affirm.

         Factual Background

         Michael Hungerford was a special education teacher at the Forsyth R-III School District (the District). In 2008, he molested one of his students, D.M.A. (Plaintiff). Hungerford was convicted of first-degree child molestation and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.

         Plaintiff brought a civil action against Hungerford, the District and two administrators. The District had an insurance

Page 685

policy--" Combined Liability Coverage Agreement" --through MUSIC. Pursuant to the insurance policy (the Policy), MUSIC provided a defense to the District, the administrators, and Hungerford in his official capacity. However, MUSIC did not defend Hungerford for Plaintiff's claims against him as an individual. Plaintiff entered into a settlement agreement with the District and the administrators. Plaintiff then amended her petition against Hungerford, pleading a claim for " sexual misconduct." Hungerford did not answer the petition and the trial court entered a default judgment against him for $10,000,000.

         Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a separate action to garnish insurance funds from MUSIC to satisfy her $10,000,000 default judgment against Hungerford. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted MUSIC's motion. In its order, the trial court concluded that: 1) Hungerford was not a " Covered Person" under the policy; 2) Hungerford's intentional sexual molestation of Plaintiff was not an " Occurrence" under the policy; 3) Hungerford's intentional wrongful acts were excluded under the insurance plan; 4) Missouri precedent excludes liability coverage for teachers who assault students; and 5) there was no ambiguity in the insurance policy regarding whether sexual molestation is covered. Plaintiff appeals.

         Standard of Review

          The interpretation of an insurance policy, and the determination whether coverage and exclusion provisions are ambiguous, are questions of law that this Court reviews de novo. Seeck v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., 212 S.W.3d 129, 132 (Mo. banc 2007). This Court also applies a de novo standard of review to a trial court's grant of summary judgment. Am. Std. Ins. Co. v. Hargrave, 34 S.W.3d 88, 89 (Mo. banc 2000). " An order of summary judgment may be affirmed under any theory that is supported by the record." Burns v. Smith, 303 S.W.3d 505, 509 (Mo. banc 2010) (citation omitted). We review the record in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment was granted. Woodling v. Polk, 473 S.W.3d 233, 235 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015).

         Discussion

         In the present case, Plaintiff claims that the trial court erred in granting MUSIC's motion for summary judgment. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that Hungerford is a " Covered Person" under the Policy; 2) sexual misconduct is an " Occurrence" under the Policy; 3) the Policy is ambiguous; 4) the exclusions do not cure the policy of its ambiguity; and 5) Todd v. Missouri United School Ins. ...


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