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Articles Posted in Sexual Assault and Abuse

Sexual assault and abuse in California including Los Angeles. Sex assault claims on private property. Sexual abuse by employees of California companies, churches, medical providers or community organizations.

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In California, many liability insurance policies contain exclusions for injuries that result from intentional acts. This means that it can be difficult for injured victims to recover compensation when they are injured by the intentional actions of insured parties. In Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Company Inc., Case No. S236765, the California Supreme Court recently addressed a case in which the employee of a construction company committed a sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl while he was working on a construction site at a school. The insurance company tried to assert that the exclusion for coverage applied because the act of the employee was intentional, and the company filed a lawsuit against the insurance company.

Factual background

The Ledesma & Meyer Construction Company secured a contract from the San Bernadino Unified School District to complete a construction project at a middle school. The company hired a man named Darrell Hecht to serve as an assistant superintendent and assigned him to manage the construction project at the middle school. While Hecht was on site at the school, he sexually molested a 13-year-old girl. The girl’s family filed a lawsuit against the Ledesma & Meyer Construction Company alleging that the company negligently hired, supervised and retained Hecht.

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Sexual-Assault-Claims-California-LawCan an employee in California sue their employer if they are sexually assaulted in the workplace and the employer had some prior notice that the assault could occur?  The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) provides protections to workers from discrimination, including sexual harassment. The law allows workers to sue their employers when they suffer discrimination or sexual harassment while they are working. In M.F. v. Pacific Pearl Hotel Management LLC, Cal. App. 4th, No. D070150, the court ruled that workers are able to sue their employers under the FEHA when they have been sexually harassed or assaulted by nonemployees at their jobs.

Issue: Can an employee can sue her employer for nonemployee sexual harassment under the FEHA?

M.F. was employed as a housekeeper at the Pacific, which is a five-building hotel property owned by Pacific Pearl Hotel Management LLC. The hotel’s engineering manager saw a trespasser on the hotel property one morning who was not a guest of the hotel. The trespasser was intoxicated and was carrying a beer, but the engineering manager did not tell him to leave or report his presence to the housekeeping staff. Later, the trespasser approached one of the housekeepers while she was cleaning a room and tried to give her money in exchange for sexual favors. A maintenance worker who was working nearby overheard and helped the housekeeper to make the trespasser leave the room. The trespasser then went to another hotel room where a housekeeper was cleaning and tried to get into the room. He again offered money for sexual favors. The housekeeper was able to close the door on the man and reported the incident to her manager.

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