Just because you have a piece of paper saying you are an additional insured, it does not mean there is any coverage under any policy to protect you.Posted: August 14, 2017
Additional insured certificates are limited by two things, what the underlying policy provides coverage for and what the certificate of insurance says it will cover. Lacking coverage under the policy or lacking the necessary language in the additional insured certificate you are hanging in the wind without any insurance coverage.
For an additional insured certificate to be valid, you must put together three things. A contract which identifies the requirements or insurance you are looking for. An insurance policy that insures those requirements and a certificate of insurance that covers those requirements or better states as the requirements are set forth in the original contract. Lacking any, one of those and you are just wasting paper.
When you get a certificate of insurance, you must then read it to make sure you meet the requirements it may set out. If there is a limitation on the amount of time you have to file a claim or a specific way to notify the insured, make sure you follow those procedures.
Finally, whenever you file any claim with any insurance company for coverage, follow the procedures the policy requires then follow up with a letter providing notice the insurance company in writing.
State: Missouri, United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Central Division
Plaintiff: Great American Alliance Insurance Company
Defendant: Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Inc., et al.
Plaintiff Claims: Great American now moves for summary judgment on its requested declaratory judgment that: (1) no liability coverage exists under its policy issued to Student Life for any claims asserted in the underlying lawsuit against Windermere or Windermere’s employees, including Kendra Brown; (2) Great American owes no duty to defend Windermere, Kendra Brown, or any other Windermere employees in the underlying lawsuit; and
(3) no medical payments coverage exists for Karlee Richards.
Defendant Defenses: No coverage provided under the policy or certificate of insurance
Holding: Split decision, however the insurance company will not pay anything under the certificate of insurance
This is a legally complicated case with simple facts. A church rented a camp from Student Life, which had contracted with a church camp called Windermere. The reservation form and simple agreement between the camp and the church required the issuance of a certificate of insurance.
A camper, part of the church group fell while riding the zip line. She sued. That lawsuit was still pending when this lawsuit was started to determine whose insurance was required to defend against the camper’s lawsuit.
In that case, damages are being sought against them for injuries sustained by Karlee Richards after she fell while zip-lining at The Edge, a ropes course at Windermere’s Conference Center. Kendra Brown was an employee of Windermere, working at the Edge at the time of the accident.
The injured camper Richards was with the Searcy Baptist Church. They rented the camp through Student Life. Student Life rented the camp from Windermere. The contract between Student Life and Windermere is the one at question here. Windermere required a certificate of insurance from Student Life.
June 2014, Karlee Richards and her Searcy Baptist Church youth group were attending a summer camp at Windermere’s Conference Center, which was sponsored by Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Conference, d.b.a. Student Life. Student Life contracted with Windermere to hold the church camp at Windermere’s facility in Missouri. Student Life had a liability policy with Great American, and Windermere was an additional insured on that policy. The additional insured endorsement provides that the additional insured, in this case Windermere, is only covered for “liability arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of that portion of the premises leased to Great American contends that Windermere is not entitled to coverage for Kaylee Richards’s injuries because Windermere did not “lease” the Edge to Student Life because the Edge was not specifically mentioned in Student Life’s written agreement with Windermere.
The first issue the court skipped was the policy that Student Life had, was restrictive and had minimal coverage. It had a requirement that all claims had to be made in one year. This may not be bad, but if the statute of limitations for the type of injury is two years or three, you may not have coverage for a claim because you did not know you had one until after the time period had run.
Student Life is the named insured on a Commercial General Liability policy with Great American. The policy requires that all requests for medical payments be made within one year of the accident that gives rise to the insurance claim. Also, when there is other valid and collectible excess insurance coverage, the Great American policy provides that Great American will have no duty to defend its insured against a claim for damages.
On top of the claim limitation period, the coverage was solely excess coverage. Meaning the coverage did on top of any other coverage the insured had and had no duty to defend or pay for attorneys. It only had to pay for a claim after the
limits of the underlying policy were exhausted. No underlying policy was ever mentioned in the case so it is unknown if one existed.
If this is the only policy, Student Life purchased, they bought the wrong one!
Another issue was whether the student life policy would provide coverage for employees of Windermere that were sued based on the accident.
This suit was brought by the Student Life insurance company, Great American Alliance Insurance Company, asking the court to tell Student Life it was not going to pay or defend any of the claims brought by the injured camper against Windermere.
Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.
The court first looked at whether the additional insured certificate was ambiguous. If so, then the court had to interpret the ambiguity under Missouri’s law.
An ambiguity is an uncertainty in the meaning of the policy.
If an ambiguity exists, the policy language will be construed against the insurer. Mendota, “‘An ambiguity exists when there is
duplicity, indistinctness, or uncertainty in the meaning of the language of the policy.'” “‘To test whether the language used in the policy is ambiguous, the language is considered in the light in which it would normally be understood by the lay person who bought and paid for the policy.'” Whether an insurance policy is ambiguous is a question of law.”
The burden of proving there is coverage falls on the party seeking it, in this case, Windermere. An ambiguity exists if there are different interpretations of the language in the policy. There are two types of Ambiguities, Latent and patent.
A policy is ambiguous if it is “fairly open to different interpretations” because it contains “duplicity, indistinctness, or uncertainty of meaning.” Importantly, there are two types of ambiguities in the law: patent and latent. “A patent ambiguity is detected from the face of the document, whereas a latent ambiguity is found ‘when the particular words of a document apply equally well to two different objects or some external circumstances make their meaning uncertain.'”
Here the court found that a patent ambiguity existed.
For these reasons, a patent ambiguity exists. The disputed phrase not only should be interpreted in favor of the Defendants, but the Defendants’ interpretation is arguably the only one that would make sense to an ordinary person under these circumstances.
The court also found a latent ambiguity existed in the certificate of insurance.
A latent ambiguity exists when a contract “on its face appears clear and unambiguous, but some collateral matter makes the meaning
uncertain.” Id. In other words, an ambiguity is “latent if language, which is plain on its face, becomes uncertain upon application.”
If an ambiguity is found in an insurance policy, the ambiguity is construed against the insurance company. “In the
alternative, it is well-settled that an ambiguity within an insurance policy must be construed against the insurer.”
Consequently, the court ruled on this issue, that there was coverage for Windermere from the Student Life Policy. However, the court found against Student Life and Windermere on the other issues.
Windermere requested coverage for defending its employees, which the court denied.
Great American argues that no coverage exists for Brown or any other Windermere employee because the Additional Insured Endorsement does not provide additional insured status and/or coverage for an additional insured’s employees. Brown is not identified anywhere in Student Life’s Great American policy nor is she listed as an Additional Insured on a Certificate of Liability. Therefore, any coverage for Brown would necessarily derive from her status as Windermere’s employee, and employees are not covered as insureds by the Additional Insured Endorsement.
The court agreed with Great American that no coverage was described in the certificate of insurance.
The next issue was, whether or not there was a duty to defend. A duty to defend is to pay the cost of the lawsuit; attorney fees, expert witness fees, etc.
Under Missouri law, the duty to defend “arises whenever there is a potential or possible liability to pay based on the facts at the outset of the case and is not dependent on the probable liability to pay based on the facts ascertained through trial.”
Because there was no coverage for the Windermere employees, there was no duty to defend them either. A duty to defend must be specifically identified in the policy. In this case the policy specifically stated, there was no duty to defend.
As to whether Great American owes a duty to defend Windermere, the Endorsement makes clear that any coverage for Windermere as an additional insured would be excess, and the policy does not afford a defense when (1) its coverage is excess and (2) when the insured is being provided a defense by another carrier.
The last issue was whether medical expenses of the injured camper were owed by Great American to Windermere. Again, since the policy specifically stated there was no coverage for medical expenses this was denied. The court also found the
requirement under the policy to make a claim for medical expenses had to be done within one year, and that time had lapsed; therefore, no medical expenses were owed by the Student Life Policy with Great American.
The decision was split, however, in reality; Windermere got nothing from the decision. If Windermere lost its suit or exhausted its own liability insurance policy protection, it could, then see money from the Student Life policy with Great American, but no other coverage was owed by Great American. However, that meant the camper was going to have to win millions probably to exhaust the Windermere policy and Windermere or its insurance company was going to foot the bill with no help from the policy under the certificate of insurance.
So Now What?
This is a classic case were not knowing or checking what happens when you receive an additional insured certificate ends up costing you more money than not having one.
The underlying policy by the group coming into the camp was crap. On top of that it had major restrictions on when it would pay. Add to those issues the certificate of insurance was badly written and the company receiving the additional insured certificate received a worthless piece of paper. On top of that it cost them a lot of money I’m guessing to sue to find out they were not going to get anything from the policy.
1. Issue a request for a Certificate of Insurance in a contract or the contract. Set forth in the contract everything you must have and the type of insurance policy that must be underlying the certificate of insurance.
2. Request a copy of the insurance policy be delivered with the certificate of insurance. Again, if the policy is crap, you are getting crap.
3. Make sure the insurance policy covers what the contract says it should cover.
4. Make sure the certificate of insurance covers what the contract says it must cover.
Just collecting certificates of insurance to put in a box or file cabinet are only killing trees. It is probably not providing you any protection as in this case.
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