Thursday, May 14, 2009, 6:47 PM

4th Circuit: Insurer Had No Duty To Defend Gov't Contractor Against Claims Alleging Torture At Abu Ghraib

Today the Fourth Circuit held that an insurer had no duty to defend its insured against claims alleging torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq. The case is CACI Int'l, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co.

The insured, CACI, was a government contractor that provided logistical and intelligence support for U.S. operations in Iraq, including screening and interrogating detainees at Abu Ghraib and other Iraq prisons. Because the insurance policies generally limit coverage to the U.S. and Canada and the injuries occurred in Iraq, the Court ruled there was no coverage.

CACI argued that the alleged abuses may be covered under the so-called "short time" exception to the territorial coverage provision--an exception for "injury or damage" that "result[s] from the activities of a person whose home is in the coverage territory, but is away from there for a short time on [CACI’s] business." The Court disagreed, holding that this limited exception can't encompass activities of the scope and magnitude of CACI’s operations in Iraq. The underlying complaints against CACI alleged a systematic pattern of activities lasting months and even years.

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