FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A woman who said she was sexually abused while a student in the Springdale School District has now been named as a defendant alongside the district in a suit against Berkley Assurance, the district’s insurance carrier.
Alissa Cawood sued the Springdale School District, principal Joseph Rollins and assistant principal Mark Oesterle in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court on November 1, 2022, due to “sexual harassment, sexual assault and the deprivation of bodily integrity suffered by a young student at the hands of the Defendants.”
Cawood claims in court documents that she was stalked, groomed and sexually assaulted during her time in the district, starting when she was just 13, by former assistant principal Mark Oesterle.
Cawood is seeking damages for her experiences in the district, and the district claims that Berkley Assurances should cover it.
However, the insurance company says that this issue isn’t the company’s responsibility, and notes in court documents that Cawood’s claims fall under policy exclusions.
Berkley has filed a suit against Cawood, the Springdale School District, Joseph Rollins and Mark Oesterle, asking for a declaratory judgment to be made so that the firm does not owe a duty to defend the district, Rollins or Oesterle and that the firm not be responsible for any compensation if Cawood wins.
One of the exclusions involves damages arising from bodily injury, emotional distress or mental anguish, while another one bars claims involving assault.
Cawood responded to Berkley’s suit asking for it to be dismissed.
A countersuit filed by the Springdale School District and Joseph Rollins on April 26 says that Berkley Assurance had breached its contract with the district.
“Berkley Assurance Company has acted dishonestly, maliciously and oppressively toward the district in an attempt to avoid its liability for indemnity and/or a duty to defend under its liability insurance policy issued to the district,” the counterclaim said.