Insurer seeks to limit priest abuse liability

A major insurer asked a court Tuesday to limit or eliminate its responsibility to cover some clergy sex abuse claims against the Twin Cities archdiocese.

Last month, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis sued about 20 insurers in federal court to try to clarify the amount of money the carriers would pay to settle clergy sex abuse claims. In a court filing, the insurer CNA is now contending that the company and its predecessors have no responsibility to pay claims related to events that were "not unexpected or unforeseen," or claims that otherwise breach contractual obligations.

The insurer said it has no record of some policies that the archdiocese claims exist. The insurer also said some coverage doesn't include sexual abuse.

CNA is also seeking rulings that would limit its financial responsibility if it is determined that the company is obligated to cover abuse claims.

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The archdiocese faces numerous claims from people who say they were abused by priests and says it could file for bankruptcy as a result.

Archdiocese attorney Lauren Lonergan said the insurers' move was expected.

"They're saying that in some circumstances they don't believe they have to provide coverage for a claim or as much coverage for claim as we would contend they do," Lonergan said. "But I don't think they're saying that under no circumstances would they have to provide coverage."

CNA declined to comment.