Home Page The Publication The Editor Contact Information Insurance Key issues Book Subscribe

Vol. 11 - Issue 6
December 16, 2022


Hitting The Snooze Button 24 Times Leads To No Sleepy Coverage Issue 








Richie Bishop, Ph.D., of Cranston, Rhode Island, had a job interview, via Zoom, scheduled for 9 a.m. on September 21, 2021.  Bishop was a microbiologist and looking to land a position as a research scientist for a large pharmaceutical company in its canine division. 

This was to be Bishop’s dream job.  It was the only pharmaceutical company that had both the willingness and state-of-the-art equipment to research a drug to keep dogs from barking at U.S. Postal Service mail carriers.  Bishop had long-believed that he was close to successfully developing such a pharmaceutical.  He just needed the advanced facilities that this new employer could offer.  Once this drug was developed, Bishop believed that he could also create one that would do the same for UPS drivers.  From there, the chemical compositions for Amazon and Fedex drivers were no doubt just a stone’s throw away.     

Bishop stayed up later than usual the night before the interview to catch the end of Monday Night Football which had gone into overtime.  Bishop set his alarm clock for 7:30 a.m., giving him plenty of time to shower, eat breakfast and get dressed – at least from the waist up.       

However, when the alarm sounded, Bishop pushed the snooze button, giving himself an additional ten minutes of blissful sleep.  This was not typical for Bishop, who normally immediately jumped out of bed at the sound of the alarm.  However, his unusual bedtime the night before had thrown off his body clock.  Following the first snooze, the alarm continued to go off.  Each time, Bishop pushed the snooze button.  When Bishop finally awoke it was 11:30 a.m.  He had pushed the snooze button 24 times.

Bishop, panicked, immediately contacted the pharmaceutical company, apologized for the situation and asked to reschedule.  Unfortunately, the company, none too pleased with Bishop’s no-show – five people had been inconvenienced -- was not willing to accommodate him. 

Despite further efforts, Bishop was unable to convince the company to interview him.  He was certain that, had he had the interview, he would have landed the job and successfully developed the canine drugs and earned at least a $5 million bonus from his employer.   

Facing this situation, Bishop filed suit in Rhode Island state court against AAAlarm Clocks, Inc., the manufacturer of the alarm clock.  Bishop’s theory of liability, laid out in Richie Bishop, Ph.D. v. AAAlarm Clocks, Inc., No. 21-3476 (R.I. Super. Ct. Dec. 21, 2021), was that the manufacturer should have known that, after the snooze button is pressed four times, the person to be awakened needs additional assistance.  Thus, further snoozing should now be deactivated and the volume of the alarm increased exponentially.  Bishop was aware that such technology existed as he had once seen an alarm clock like this in a Sky Mall catalogue on an airplane.

AAAlarm Clocks, Inc. provided notice of the suit to Obdurate Mutual Ins. Co., its general liability insurer.  Obdurate disclaimed coverage on the basis that the Bishop action did not seek damages because of “bodily injury,” “property damage” or “personal and advertising injury.”  AAAlarm Clocks disagreed, arguing that Bishop was seeking damages because of “property damage.”  As AAAlarm Clocks saw it, Bishop was alleging that, because he had overslept, he lost the use of tangible property that had not been physically injury, namely, the high-tech scientific equipment, at his would-be employer, that he would have used to finish developing the canine drugs.  Thus, the “loss of use” prong of the definition of “property damage” had been satisfied.    

AAAlarm Clocks undertook its own defense and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint six ways from Sunday.  During oral argument, the judge noted that he too had seen that same clock in a Sky Mall catalogue and had thought about buying one for his teenage daughter. 

The court denied the motion to dismiss and gave signs that it saw merit in some of the claims.  AAAlarm Clocks, now fearing the opening of the floodgates for other snooze-button consequential damages litigation – ripe for fraud and outlandish claims of nonsensical alleged losses due to oversleeping -- reached a confidential settlement with Bishop for $2,000,000.  Putting aside the complexity of the arrangement, AAAlarm Clocks was to be repaid $1,000,000 if Bishop developed a no-barking drug within the next five years and received an employer bonus in excess of $3,000,000 for his efforts.   

AAAlarm Clocks filed suit against Obdurate Mutual, seeking coverage for its defense costs and reimbursement for the $2,000,000 paid to settle the Bishop action.  The parties in AAAlarm Clocks, Inc. v. Obdurate Mutual Ins. Co., No. 22-1876 (R.I. Super. Ct. September 8, 2022) cross moved for summary judgment.

On December 8, 20220, the court ruled in favor of AAAlarm Clocks, Inc., agreeing with its argument that the complaint sought damages because of “property damage,” based on Bishop’s loss of use of the tangible property that had not been physically injured -- the high-tech scientific equipment at his would-be employer.  In the opinion in the coverage case, the judge noted that she had seen that same clock in a Sky Mall catalogue and had thought about buying one for her husband. 


That’s my time. I’m Randy Spencer.

Website by Balderrama Design Copyright Randy Maniloff All Rights Reserved