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Insurers sue over LA school abuse settlement

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POSTED May 31, 2013 9:57 p.m.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seven insurers have sued the Los Angeles school district to avoid paying a $30 million settlement to 58 alleged victims of child abuse at an elementary school.

The insurers claim there was no relevant coverage under the policies, but the district said its general liability insurance should cover the costs, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

Sean Rossall, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, called the move troubling.

"We're going to do everything possible to ensure that the carriers honor our policies," Rossall told the Times.

Authorities allege that 62-year-old teacher Mark Berndt blindfolded children in his classroom at Miramonte Elementary School while playing a "tasting game" that involved feeding them his semen from a spoon or on a cookie.

An investigation also uncovered hundreds of photographs of children being abused, authorities said.

Berndt has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial. He remained in custody in lieu of $23 million bail.

In an unprecedented move, the district removed all employees at the school while it investigated how the alleged acts went undetected for so long.

The district also wants $5 million from the insurance companies to cover staffing costs related to that decision.

The lead plaintiff in the suit, New Jersey-based Everest National Insurance Co., disputes that there is any coverage under its policies for the claims by the district.

Sean Andrade, an attorney for the district, said the general liability insurance should cover the settlement, and the district's share of the liability would be up to $5 million.

In addition to the $30 million settlement, more than 50 claims involving the situation remained unresolved, with attorneys seeking higher compensation than the settlement provides.

 

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