9th Circ. Has Insurance Question in Rape Case

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court Monday to weigh in on whether an insurer has a duty to defend a contractor against parents whose daughter was sexually assaulted by a man hired to supervise a school construction project.
     Jane Doe and her parents sued the San Bernardino City School District and Rancho Cucamonga-based general contractor Ledesma and Meyer claiming negligence and negligent hiring after its owner Joseph Ledesma hired his brother-in-law Darold Hecht, now 44, to supervise a project at the Cesar E. Chavez Middle School.
     Hecht was convicted in 2009 of molesting the then-13-year-old girl, according to a 2010 San Bernardino Sun story. He was hired to work at the school despite being a registered sex offender and convicted of sexually assaulting two other young girls, Doe and her parents said in the lawsuit.
     “Cesar Chavez Middle School and the San Bernardino School District failed to investigate Darold Hecht and permitted this twice-convicted and registered sex offender to have unfettered access to the school campus,” her amended lawsuit, filed in February 2012, said.
     From the fall of 2006, Hecht — then a 34-year-old married father and husband — had flirted with the young girl in front of teachers and school security guards, Doe said. He picked her up multiple times from the bus stop and sexually abused her, according to the lawsuit.
     At the same time, Hecht was having an affair with a secretary at the school who eventually gave birth to his child, the girl claimed.
     The girl’s lawsuit against the contractor and the district claimed the school had dropped its investigation into Hecht and failed to notify her parents after they learned that he had raped her.
     In 2012, Liberty Surplus Insurance sued Ledesma and Meyer and its principals, claiming it is not obligated to cover the costs of defending them in Doe’s lawsuit, which sought $5 million on multiple claims.
     U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner ruled for the insurer earlier this month, triggering an appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
     On Monday, the appeals court certified a question that it says is of “exceptional importance” to insurers, employers and people who are injured. In the order, the appeals court asked the California Supreme Court to “resolve an unsettled matter of insurance law in California,” namely whether the events that led to the girl’s lawsuit were caused by an accident — or “occurrence” under the language of the employer’s commercial general liability policy — that obligates Liberty to cover the contractor.
     Third Circuit Judge Thomas Vanaskie, sitting by designation, and Ninth Circuit Judges Mary Murguia and Paul Watford are handling the appeal.
     Hecht also goes by the aliases David and David Jay, according to the California Megan’s Law site. He is currently imprisoned at the Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records.

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