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) .
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). 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.”