Insurance For Stupid People: The Top Ten Funniest Coverage Decisions of 2008

People regularly do stupid things that cause someone else an injury. Then the inevitable lawsuit gets filed, and then an insurance clam gets filed, too. But occasionally, the courts get it right in their decisions, and we get to make fun of the plaintiffs and defendants.

My friend Randy Maniloff is a genius attorney, a partner in the Business Insurance Practice Group at White & Williams in Philadelphia. He recently wrote an article that showcased these court decisions, and gave me permission to share them with you.

So, in order of dumbness (lowest to highest), here is the Top Ten Funniest Coverage Decisions of 2008:

10. A motivational speaker repeatedly urged a seminar participant to break a board with her bare hands. After she tried and was successful only in injuring her hand, she sued the speaker. In Reese v. Alea London Ltd., the Court decided that the speaker’s policy had a Professional Services exclusion that precluded coverage. I guess “mind over matter” doesn’t include lumber. I also guess you can be “board” to tears in this guy’s seminars.

9. The insured was playing around his backyard pool and tried to throw someone in the pool. However, he miscalculated the strength he’d need to complete the throw, and instead threw the victim onto the pool’s steps, seriously injuring the victim. State Farm denied coverage. In State Farm Fire & Casualty v. Superior Court, the Court decided that coverage was owed since the insured’s only intent was to get the victim wet. Note to the insured: next time you want to get a woman wet, take her out for dinner and dancing.

8. The insured got into a fight, and got his hand stuck in the glass of a sliding glass door. He shot the glass to free his hand and the bullet ricocheted into the chest of a woman inside the house. In Shelter Mutual Insurance v Wheat, the Court decided there was no coverage because the injury was not caused by an “accident.” In other news, Bob Vila will be hosting a memorial service for the door.

7. The insured business hired violent offenders to go door-to-door and sell magazines. Their aggressive sales tactics caused.injuries and at least one death. In Nautilus Insurance Company v. Reuter, the parties are waiting to see which way the Court interprets the policy term “occurrence” to figure out if there’s coverage. The Girl Scouts need to hire these guys for next year’s cookie drive.

6. A middle school student caused injuries to a teacher’s aide when, in the middle of a cafeteria food fight, he struck the aide with a garbage can. In Medrano v. State Farm Insurance Company, the Court decided that the insurer had to provide defense under the Homeowners policy because the Complaint implied that the injuries were unintentional. In the student’s defense, he couldn’t tell the difference in the garbage or school cafeteria food.

5. A karaoke singer was waving around an ice cream scoop (her microphone?) when it flew out of her hand and hit someone, causing injuries. In Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance v. Kim, the Court decided that the insurance company had to provide defense for the singer under her Homeowners liability coverage, since the Court didn’t buy the argument that the injuries weren’t because of negligence. I wonder if she was singing “Tutti Fruiti” at the time of the incident.

4. An insured restaurant had a gas grille at a tailgate party at a Jimmy Buffet concert. The gas grille wouldn’t light, so they poured gasoline on it, and the explosion caused injuries. In United States Liability Insurance Co. v. Harbor Club, the Court denied coverage to the restaurant because the incident was not on the insured’s premises. Yummy…toasted Parrotheads. I wonder if the smoke from this explosion could be distinguished from the marijuana cloud at the concert.

3. The insured caused injuries to an old friend by saying hello with his “signature greeting,” which was putting the old friend in a headlock and squeezing his head while asking him how he was doing. In Sanford v. Century Surety Co., the Court denied coverage because the injury was not caused by an accident and the “assault and battery” exclusion applied. Imagine how the insured must greet those who are not his friends.

2. The homeowner caused injuries and one death to party guests when the host used gunpowder as a propellant to shoot his potato gun. In Kiser v. Coffee, coverage was denied because injury was reasonably expected from this intentional act. The potato in question is now in a low earth orbit, visible in a clear night sky.

And the Number One Funniest Coverage Decision of 2008 is….

1. The insured’s minor son injured his friend by kicking him twice in the groin after learning that his friend’s sister did not like him. In American National Property & Casualty v. Hanna, coverage was denied because the injury was not caused by an accident. Love hurts…..

A big “thank you” to Deborah Richards, Geri Lumsden and Jarrett Smith for their smart-assed assistance with the one-liners in this article.

Stay tuned. I’m sure there will be plenty of court cases in 2009 for our next Top Ten List!

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