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Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. Ironshore Specialty Ins.: On Defendant’s Suing their Own Insurance Companies

Our Boston personal injury lawyers know insurance cases involving defendants with multiple insurance companies may result in additional litigation.

959017_swimming_pool_water.jpgIn Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. Ironshore Specialty Ins., a case heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, two boys attended a youth sports camp operated by the defendant. Neither of the boys could swim, and the parents indicated that they could not swim on the appropriate form.

One day during camp, there was a pool party for all campers. Once the pool party was over, the staff noticed the two boys were missing. Their bodies were eventually discovered lying next to each other on the bottom of the deep end of the pool. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death for both children was drowning but the most shocking finding were that the times of death for the boys was determined to be at 10:42 p.m. and 10:44 p.m. respectively.

The plaintiffs alleged that the camp was negligent in the pool area after the parents had signed a required form that specifically stated that the boys could not swim. The plaintiffs further alleged that the camp was negligent in failing to train and supervise their counselors and failing to exercise their duty of reasonable care in all other ways required under the law.

The camp had what is known as a commercial general liability (CGL) policy with limits of $1 million per occurrence and $5 million in aggregate damages. The camp also had two umbrella insurance policies that had limits of up to $5 million and $10 million respectively in excesses of the CGL policy limits.

The camp, which was a defendant, sued its own insurance companies in attempt to get the two boys’ deaths treated as separate occurrences.

This is a complicated issue that can arise when dealing with insurance companies. Both the plaintiff and the defendant will sometimes have an interest in making sure the defendant’s insurance company will cover as much as possible. The more the insurance company covers, the larger a settlement may be for the plaintiff. This can also be a benefit to the defendant, who wants to limit any out-of-pocket exposure in a lawsuit.

In many cases, the defendant may not have sufficient personal assets to cover any damages in excess of the policy limits, so that will tend to limit the plaintiff’s recovery.

In Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Court is looking at a lawsuit solely between the camp owners and their insurance companies. The boys’ family members would obviously like the camp to be awarded as much insurance coverage as necessary to cover their losses.

Ultimately, the appeals court reasoned that the two boys deaths were the same occurrence for the purposes of insurance coverage. This does not, of course, mean that camp owners are not liable for damages to the boys’ families.

If you are injured in an accident in Boston, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. Ironshore Specialty Ins., July 11, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Summer Swimming Pool Safety in New England, May 15, 2014, Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Blog