In three separate California state civil lawsuits, performers in the pornographic film industry sued Cybernet Entertainment, LLC for negligence, negligence per se, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligent supervision, and negligent hiring and/or retention.
They alleged, in essence, that Cybernet did not take adequate steps to protect its performers and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV during pornographic shoots, causing injury. The plaintiffs alleged that Cybernet did not provide adequate personal protective equipment, such as condoms, to performers; did not test certain performers; and otherwise violated California regulations meant to prevent the spread of STDs and HIV in pornographic shoots.
The state-court plaintiffs’ causes of action for intentional/fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy to commit fraud alleged that Cybernet and others made various false representations concerning the safety of Cybernet shoots (e.g., that protection could be used on request) to the plaintiffs to induce them to participate in those shoots.
Cybernet Entertainment filed a third-party complaint in federal court against State Compensation Insurance Fund seeking a declaration that State Fund had a duty to defend Cybernet in the three state court actions filed against Cybernet under a Workers’ Compensation and Employer’s Liability Insurance Policy.
The district court held that State Fund did not have a duty to defend Cybernet. Cybernet appealed. The ruling was affirmed in the unpublished case of Seneca Insurance Company Inc. v State Compensation Insurance Fund.
The court considered whether two policy exclusions bar coverage under the Employer’s Liability portion of the Policy for the claims asserted in the State Court Actions.
Exclusion 4 provides that coverage under the Employer’s Liability portion of the Policy does not extend to “any obligation imposed by a workers’ compensation . . . law.” Exclusion 5 provides that coverage under the Employer’s Liability portion of the Policy does not extend to “damages or bodily injury intentionally caused or aggravated by” Cybernet.
The acts and injuries alleged in the negligence causes of action fall within the compensation bargain because the gravamen of each is that Cybernet did not maintain a safe workplace. The remedy for such workplace-safety claims is workers’ compensation.
Exclusion 5 bars coverage for the intentional tort claims.
Because either Exclusion 4 or Exclusion 5 bars coverage under the Employer’s Liability portion of the Policy for each of the causes of action alleged against Cybernet in the state court actions, State Fund did not have a duty to defend Cybernet in those actions.