Margaret Hesse Sucessfully Defends Missouri United School Insurance Council in Declaratory Judgment Action by School District Parent

Oct 12, 2005

Tueth Keeney attorneys including shareholder Margaret Hesse recently obtained a victory for the Missouri United School Insurance Council (MUSIC) in a procedurally complex declaratory judgment action. The plaintiff in the suit was the parent of a former Clark County R-I School District elementary school student. The student had been physically assaulted by a substitute teacher in 1998. The School District had previously settled an earlier legal action with the family, but the prior settlement did not include claims against the former substitute teacher. The parent later entered into a consent judgment with the former teacher, in which the Court ordered the teacher to pay $100,000. The parent then filed suit against MUSIC, arguing that MUSIC was obligated to pay the $100,000 judgment that had been entered against the teacher.

On October 12, 2005, the Honorable Gary Dial accepted Tueth Keeney’s arguments and granted MUSIC’s Motion for Summary Judgment, holding that the teacher’s actions of intentionally assaulting the student were specifically exempted from MUSIC’s coverage, and that MUSIC therefore had no duty to defend nor indemnify the former teacher. Judge Dial was not convinced by the parent’s argument that the MUSIC 1998 Plan Document was ambiguous, because it allegedly “granted coverage in one section, and then took that coverage away.” The Court agreed instead with Tueth Keeney’s argument that insurance policies commonly provide for general coverage, and subsequently contain specific exclusionary provisions. Judge Dial agreed that the declaration page of MUSIC’s 1998 Plan Document clearly provides that insurance is subject to the exclusions and other provisions attached to the declarations. Therefore, the Court held that because the former teacher’s intentional actions which caused injury to the student clearly were not covered under MUSIC’s policy, MUSIC could not be held liable for the $100,000 consent judgment entered against the teacher, as a matter of law.

Firm attorneys Margaret A. Hesse and Phyleccia Reed Cole successfully handled this case on behalf of MUSIC, in Clark County Circuit Court.

Margaret Hesse primarily practices in the areas of education law, employment law and litigation. She has represented school districts in employment matters, including Title VII, the Safe Schools Act, Title IX, and the Equal Pay Act. She has represented employers in labor matters before the United States Department of Labor/Wage and Hour Division and the Illinois Commission of Human Rights.

Missouri Education – The law firm of Tueth Keeney Cooper Mohan & Jackstadt, P.C. (the “Firm”), has one of the largest and most successful education law groups in the country. The Firm regularly serves the legal counsel needs of approximately 150 school districts throughout Missouri. The Firm also has one of the largest school law practices in Central and Southern Illinois.