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Abusive teacher not covered by insurance, court rules

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has ruled an insurance company should not have to pay for the actions of a former Victoria schoolteacher who abused a student.

In 2007, Joseph Dube pleaded guilty to assaulting one of his Grade 1 pupils.

The allegations against the teacher said that over four months, starting in September, 2005, Mr. Dube repeatedly yelled, screamed and ridiculed the boy.

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The abuse included throwing the boy across the classroom and preventing the child — who had a bowel condition — from going to the washroom.

The boy's family launched a civil claim against the school district and Mr. Dube for negligence and damages, claiming they had a duty of care to look after the child's health, safety and emotional well-being during school hours. The lawsuit, which has yet to be proven in court, alleges the boy is unable to attend public school and still fears teachers.

Mr. Dube then asked his insurance agency, BCAA Insurance Corp., for coverage.

But BCAA refused to pay, both for the cost of defending the legal action and any possible damage award against Mr. Dube. The corporation said the allegations were based on assault and battery and it would pay only for unintentional bodily injury or property damage.

Mr. Dube then asked the court to force BCAA to pay, arguing the claim is for damages for the unintentional acts committed by him.

In a written ruling issued on Thursday, Judge Stephen Kelleher said he disagreed with Mr. Dube's argument. "The true nature of the claim are the allegations of assault and of battery."

However, Judge Kelleher also noted in his ruling that if some of the allegations in the civil lawsuit are proven, BCAA might be required to pay some of the damage award against Mr. Dube.

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Judge Kelleher ruled the allegations in the civil lawsuit fall squarely within the insurance firm's exclusion clause.

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