Insurance Law

“Coverage For Dummies” Comes Early – Whoa! You Gotta See This. Perhaps the Greatest “Dummies” Case Ever

I have been writing “Coverage for Dummies” for the past six years. It is published at the beginning of the year and looks back at the best examples, from the year just completed, of people who did really dumb stuff and then attempted to secure insurance coverage for the harm caused.

I am a long ways away from publishing this year’s installment of Dummies. However, a recent case is just too good to wait eight months to share. An astute Coverage Opinions reader and Dummies fan alerted me to the recent decision in Blank-Greer v. Tannerite Sports, LLC, No. 13-1266 (N.D. Ohio Apr. 21, 2015), [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers].

First, let me mention that, in Dummies 2014 (CO, January 14, 2015), I wrote about Davler v. Arch Ins. Co. (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 25, 2014), [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers]. In Davler, the court held that no coverage was owed to a cosmetics manufacturer when a (female) manager, determined to figure out who left a sanitary napkin in the bathroom and blood around the toilet seat, forced female employees to pull down their underwear so that another (female) employee could inspect whether they were wearing a sanitary napkin. The employment related practices exclusion precluded coverage.

I concluded that 2014 may be the last year for “Coverage For Dummies” because I figured that there would never be another case as good as Davler. Period.

Well, I may have to stand corrected. Tannerite Sports may top Davler as the all-time greatest Dummies case. I’ll quote liberally from the court’s opinion to demonstrate some folks’ ability to take stupidity to unimaginable heights.

“In May 2012, [James] Yaney’s friend, Jason Vantilburg, in anticipation of the birth of his first child, asked Yaney to host a party to celebrate. Yaney and Vantilburg fashioned the party into a ‘diaper shootout,’ where guests could bring diapers for the new baby and enjoy an afternoon shooting guns in Yaney’s backyard. As a ‘grand finale’ to the party, they also decided to blow up an old refrigerator.

In preparation, Yaney used his [Yaney] Motorsports truck to haul the refrigerator from Vantilburg’s home to his property. He then used his trailer to tow a box van to his backyard so that guests had a target to shoot. On the day of the event, Yaney set up the Motorsports truck and trailer as a staging area for guns and ammunition. ***

Towards the end of the event, Yaney and Vantilburg decided it was time to blow up the refrigerator. They hauled the refrigerator from Yaney’s pole barn into the backyard. Guests stood behind tables fifty meters away from where the refrigerator was located. Vantilburg moved into position behind his rifle, fired at the explosives [H2] inside the refrigerator, and detonated them. The refrigerator immediately blew apart and sent shrapnel flying across the yard. A piece of shrapnel hit (guest) Plank–Greer’s hand, nearly severing it.”

I know. It takes your breath away.

If I knew how to do it, this would have been a great opportunity to use one of those internet survey tools to allow readers to vote for which case -- Davler or Tannerite Spots -- is most worthy of claiming the mantle (for now at least) of all-time greatest “Coverage for Dummies” case.

***

Incidentally, if you are interested, the actual coverage issue involved whether Yaney’s policy with Auto-Owners, for his Auto Repair Shop, provided coverage. More specifically, did the incident arise with respect to the conduct of Yaney’s business. Yaney had invited customers to the party and Yaney discussed his business with Plank-Greet, offering to weld or manufacture a hitch for her car and a bike rack, and he gave her a price for new brake pads.

The court held that: “Here, at most, Yaney’s party mixed personal activities and business, with business being incidental (and, it would appear, coincidental). Yaney used the Motosports truck and trailer to haul items to his property for the party, and spoke with guests, including plaintiff, about his business. Yaney, however, did not co-host the party to promote his business: he held the party to help his friend, Jason Vantilburg, celebrate the impending arrival of his baby. Moreover, focusing solely on the event that gave rise to plaintiff’s injury—blowing up the refrigerator—there is no question that it was done for the guests’ entertainment and bore no relationship to Yaney’s business. Because Yaney was not acting solely with respect to his business, his activities that day were outside the scope of his insurance contract with Auto–Owners. Accordingly, Auto–Owners is not obligated to provide coverage to Yaney for any of Plank–Greer's allegations.”

Coverage Opinions is a bi-weekly (or more frequently) electronic newsletter reporting or providing commentary on just-issued decisions from courts nationally addressing insurance coverage disputes. Coverage Opinions focuses on decisions that concern numerous issues under commercial general liability and professional liability insurance policies. For more information visit www.coverageopinions.info.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of his firm or its clients. The information contained herein shall not be considered legal advice. You are advised to consult with an attorney concerning how any of the issues addressed herein may apply to your own situation. Coverage Opinions is gluten free but may contain peanut products.

    Randy Maniloff is Counsel at White and Williams, LLP in Philadelphia. He previously served as a firm Partner for seven years and transitioned to a Counsel position to pursue certain writing projects including Coverage Opinions . Nonetheless he still maintains a full-time practice at the firm. Randy concentrates his practice in the representation of insurers in coverage disputes over primary and excess obligations under a host of policies, including commercial general liability and various professional liability policies, such as public official’s, law enforcement, educator’s, media, computer technology, architects and engineers, lawyers, real estate agents, community associations, environmental contractors, Indian tribes and several others. Randy has significant experience in coverage for environmental damage and toxic torts, liquor liability and construction defect, including additional insured and contractual indemnity issues. Randy is co-author of “General Liability Insurance Coverage - Key Issues In Every State” (Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2012). For the past twelve years Randy has published a year-end article that addresses the ten most significant insurance coverage decisions of the year completed.

Read more from this issue of Coverage Opinions.

For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions connect with us through our corporate site