Insurer Tells Porn Factory to Defend Itself

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A porn factory’s insurance company claims it’s not responsible for attorney fees in lawsuits brought by former actors who say they contracted HIV while filming group sex scenes, the insurer claims in Federal Court.
     Atain Specialty Insurance Company says defendant Peter Acworth, CEO of the San Francisco-based porn website Kink.com and many others, is responsible for his own attorney fees and possible settlements of a recent rash of lawsuits filed by former employees.
     According to the complaint, Acworth’s insurance policy contains a “physical and sexual abuse” exclusion and the insurer shouldn’t have to defend him in three lawsuits filed this summer by former actors who say they were diagnosed with HIV after participating in Acworth’s films.
     In April, a man identified as John Doe, filed suit against Kink.com and Acworth alleging that he contracted HIV in 2013 after performing in a film titled “Bound in Public.” Doe says he notified Kink.com weeks later after he tested positive for HIV and that the studio kept his status a secret from other actors.
     Following Doe’s lawsuit, two other actors sued Acworth in July, also claiming they contracted the virus during various porn shoots in 2013. The actors, two men and one woman, say they were subjected to unprotected sex with members of the public and that actors were told by producers they would be “out of a job” if they asked to use condoms.
     In 2007, Acworth and Armory Studios purchased a 200,000-square foot Moorish castle in San Francisco’s Mission District that was historically a training facility for the National Guard Armory and Arsenal. Acworth, a British citizen, paid $14.5 million for the castle and transformed it into a massive porn studio that specializes in fetishes, bondage and sadomasochism films.
     For $25 a pop, folks can take a 90-minute tour of the armory and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the bondage-domination-sadism-masochism conglomerate in action.
     It was during a film shot at the armory that Doe claims he was blindfolded and forced to perform oral sex on dozens of “untested, unidentified members of the general public.” Doe says he had a cut in his mouth during the performance and tested positive for HIV two weeks later.
     Atain contends Acworth is on the hook for legal fees in the three lawsuits because of an “assault and battery exclusion” and that it has no duty to indemnify the insureds.
     “Accordingly, the physical and sexual abuse exclusion in each of the Atain policies applies to eliminate any potential or actual coverage for the claims asserted in the Doe first amended complaint,” Atain’s complaint states.
     Kink.com attorney Karen Tynan told Courthouse News in May not to be fooled by “the sensational nature” of the allegations.
     “None of these claims were made at the time of the shoots, and are easily refuted both by detailed shoot records, our testing protocols, and the video footage itself,” Tynan said.
     Atain is represented by Archer Norris of Walnut Creek. The firm did not return a voicemail request for interview Thursday.
     The insurer seeks a judgment releasing it from representing defendants Armory Studios and Acworth in the three lawsuits. It also asks for a declaration identifying which policies do apply to specific claims if the court rules Atain is responsible for some causes of action but not others.

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