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Monthly Archives: November 2012

What do Halloween and EPLI have in common?

Jack-o-lantern

We like to stump you here at the Insurance Community Center and what better opportunity than Halloween.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays—no pressure with gift giving and usually no hangover the next day. It is not our goal to ruin every holiday for all of you by putting the “insurance spin” to the festivities, but rather to make you aware of the real exposures attached to these celebrations so you, or your customers, are not blind sighted by a lawsuit.

Halloween is a much bigger holiday than most of us might have realized. According to consumer studies, behind Christmas, Americans spend more money on Halloween than any other holiday. Halloween adds more than $10 billion dollars annually to the gross domestic product. On the insurance side of this issue, there are more pedestrian car accidents on Halloween night than any other time during the year. There is always the concern with the crazies that purportedly try to injure the trick-or-treaters with tainted or dangerous treats.

The festive Halloween mood has long been a time of celebration in offices, insurance agencies included. It marks the beginning of the holiday season. It is estimated that over 1/3 of employer’s offer Halloween celebrations at work. From a workplace standpoint, celebrating Halloween has been a benefit in team building; reducing stress and tension and nurturing creativity. Those are all the positive aspects of the office Halloween celebration and certainly the way I fondly remember those parties in the good old days.

But the mood has changed and with that change comes the reality of employee discontent. I was surprised to read so many articles about EPLI claims and the office Halloween parties—who would have thought? Employment Practices Liability has been available for decades and we all should be well aware of the importance of offering Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) to all of business insurance clients. We are accustomed to thinking about EPLI as relates sexual harassment; wrongful termination; discrimination and now the wage and hour allegations. So how does Halloween fit into this group of coverages. In an article titled “Imprudent Halloween Policies Can Be the Nail in the Coffin to FLSA and Title VII Compliance” there is a discussion on the two federal laws relate to employment practices and celebrating Halloween. http://hr.complianceexpert.com/news/imprudent-halloween-policies-can-be-the-nail-in-the-coffin-to-flsa-and-title-vii-compliance-1.93995?qr=1

Before considering putting on a Halloween celebrations , remember to consider all the issues related to inappropriate dress, unsuitable behavior, religious beliefs, employee safety, as well as the company image. Then also make sure you have the proper employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) coverages, to guard against any claims. There was an excellent article written by Keven Moore titled Halloween Celebration in the Workplace can be Risky on 10/16/12 that discusses many of the issues we are highlighting in this article that can be accessed at : http://www.kyforward.com/2012/10/keven-moore-on-insurance-halloween-celebration-in-the-workplace-can-be-risky/

Here are some broad categories that cause issue with the celebration in the workplace:

Religious:
There have always been questions to whether Halloween is a Christian, Pagan, or Secular holiday and therein lays the problem. There seems to be agreement that Halloween evolved out of a Catholic holiday called All Hallows Eve which occurs the day before All Saints Day, a general celebration of the saints on November 1. The obvious problem with celebrating this holiday in the office is if it offends anyone’s religious beliefs and forces them into an environment of celebrating a holiday they either do not believe in or are opposed to celebrating. Certainly this same claim could be made for Christmas, as well.

Inappropriate Costume:
It is very difficult to control what employees may consider to be an appropriate costume. In an effort to maintain a professional and discrimination-free workplace, there must be “rules” that govern what the employees can wear. In any office there is always an employee or two who will push the boundaries to the point of violating the company’s dress code and may even be politically incorrect for the office environment. In this year of a presidential election, we have to be overly cautious not to violate an individual’s rights to their own political views and discriminate in any way by making remarks OR appearances that would offend them.

Harassment:
Face it, not everyone has a sense of humor. Some employees may see Halloween as an opportunity to engage in practical jokes, or send and receive emails with menacing, threatening or explicit content. Most companies have email and/or Internet policies that explicitly preclude this practice and Halloween should be no exception to the policies. What appears to all be in good fun—may not be funny!

Workplace Violence:
It is hard to believe that his could be a concern in the Halloween office party; however in the society that we live in today, employers must set limits on masks and costumes and prohibit toy or real weapons as costume props.

Diversity:
Do not pressure employees to participate. If an employee advises you that he or she wishes to abstain from the Halloween celebration, respect that decision.

Safety Guidelines:
Each workplace has its own set of unique risk exposures and hazards and employers must be cautious of the safety hazards that clothing from costumes around any moving parts or machinery may cause injury. Or Masks that might obscure an employee’s field of vision which could prove to be hazardous. Costumes not flame resistant should be prohibited in certain work settings with ignition sources. Employees should be reminded that safety rules must be observed at all times and that any costume that could create a hazard is not permitted. If children are allowed to attend the office Halloween party it is important to create a safe environment and assess what potential safety exposures there are to the children.

Alcohol Consumption:
As with any office party or celebration, alcohol consumption can also be a significant safety and liability concern. In terms of EPLI, we all know that too much alcohol can lead a variety of inappropriate types of behavior.

This article comes AFTER the holiday has ended this year so hopefully you got through the celebration unscathed. As we approach this holiday season, we have to be mindful of the diversity in our offices and avoid any potential violation of our employees’ rights and privacy. This is a message we should be sharing with our clients, as well. The community wishes all of you a fun and safe holiday season.

 

 

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Girl in costume at Halloween party shot after being mistaken for skunk

English: Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis)

 

Girl in costume at Halloween party shot after being mistaken for skunk 10/21/2012 Associated Press

Talk about taking all the fun out of Halloween, this story takes the cake.  The shooting occurred in Freedom, Pa.   “Police say a costumed 9-year-old girl was accidentally shot outside a western Pennsylvania home during a Halloween party by a relative who thought she was a skunk. New Sewickley Township police say the girl was over a hillside and wearing a black costume and a black hat with a white tassel. Chief Ronald Leindecker says a male relative mistook her for a skunk and fired a shotgun, hitting her in the shoulder Saturday night. Leindecker tells the Beaver County Times that the girl was alert and talking when she was flown to a hospital in Pittsburgh, about 30 miles away. Her condition was unavailable. Leindecker says the man hadn’t been drinking and he doesn’t know whether charges will be filed.

When I first read this article, I had a lot of questions that came to mind.  
1.    How could anyone mistake a nine-year old girl for a skunk and NOT be drunk.  Unless they grow giant skunks in Pennsylvania, this makes no sense at all.
2.    Is it legal to kill a skunk in Pennsylvania which would then not make this some sort of criminal offense.  I goggled that exact question.  I am apparently not the only one who has researched that question as page after page of specific skunk killing questions and blogs appeared.  Summarizing the information, it appears that it is legal to kill skunks in some areas of PA; however, some species of skunks are protected by law.
3.    So,

 

 

now to the BIG question.  Is accidentally shooting a 9-year-old girl dressed in a skunk outfit covered on the Homeowners Policy when the homeowner is sued for all the medical bills and potential legal expenses. I would certainly expect that parents of the injured child will do exactly that.  

For the answer to the question, we must revisit an exclusion that has been the topic of many articles written by the Insurance Community Center—the Expected or Intended Injury Exclusion under the Section II Liability Coverage.  This exclusion has taken a major change in the most recent edition date of the Homeowners Policy and in the 04/91 edition date and prior was called the Intentional Loss Exclusion.  If we look at the two exclusions, we might answer differently as to whether the shooting would be covered.  In the 04/91 edition date the exclusion reads:
h.   Intentional Loss, meaning any loss arising out of any act committed:
(1)  By or at the direction of an “insured”, and
(2) With the intent to cause a loss
As we look at the older language, the second paragraph (which is connected by the word “and”) would imply that the insured would have had to intend to cause a loss in order for it to be excluded.  In this case, the homeowner intended to cause a loss to a skunk but had no intention of injuring a nine-year old girl.
The new “intentional act” exclusion is far more reaching and will effectively exclude many more situations, including that of the “skunk” shooting. The edition dates after 04/91 including the recent 05/11 reads as follows:
1.     Expected or Intended Injury
“Bodily injury” or “property damage” which is expected or intended by an “insured”, even if the resulting “bodily injury” or “property damage”:
(a)     Is of a different kind, quality or degree than initially expected or intended; or
(b)    Is sustained by a different person, entity or property than initially expected or intended.
However, this Exclusions E.I. does not apply to “bodily injury” or “property damage” resulting from the use of reasonable force by an “insured” to protect persons or property.

Clearly this is a much broader exclusion.  Notice that the two paragraphs are connected by an “or” rather than an “and” which means either paragraph (a) or (b) could apply for the exclusion to apply.  In this case, while the homeowner intended to kill a skunk but inadvertently shoot a nine-year old girl—there would be no coverage. Clearly the intent of these later edition dates was to exclude situations exactly like the one reported in PA.

As we look at these forms we always have to be various state laws and case-law in different states.  We all know that attorneys have a very different view on how these forms can be interpreted.  Once Florida law firm boosts on their site that they were able to recover damages from the Homeowners Policy for a gun owner who accidentally shot a woman that he testified he was merely trying to scare by waving a gun around her.  The contention here, must have been, that the homeowner was “intending” to scare and not “intending” to shot.  The newer edition date would be a much more difficult form language to contend with on this allegation.

The lessons learned in this case is that the intentional act exclusion is very broad-based; the injuries to the nine-year old girl will probably not be covered on the Homeowners Policy AND do not dress up as a skunk next Halloween.

 

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Covered or Not Covered?

 

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Learn About Crop Insurance AND Crop Losses from Hurricane Sandy

Join us to learn Crop Basics; Crop reforms; New Crop Programs and Crop lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy. CE Credit is available in many states.

Tomorrow, November 28th, The Insurance Community Center will be presenting a two hour Crop Insurance Class that qualifies for CE in some states.   The presenter for the Crop class will be Rita McMullan AFIS, CPCU, CPIW, AAI , President, PDM Insurance Agency.

This class is open to all University members at no cost and can be attended by non-members for a fee of $50.00.  You can sign up for the class at insert direct link to sign up, please.

The year 2012 has been tough on farmers due to the severe drought that affected much of the U. S.  Add to that Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc along the East Coast further threatening farms and ranches. While early estimates project Sandy to have caused about $30 billion in property damages and another $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business, the overall impact on agriculture fortunately may be less dire.

The good news for the farmers is that the growing season was essentially complete on much of the East Coast and many farmers sped up harvesting ahead of Sandy, the overall picture isn’t so much black as it is grey. But, that’s not to underestimate localized crop damage that is severe in places. Examples of loss include:

  • Loss to production and growing crop
  • Livestock Death Losses
  • Feed Purchases if supplies or grazing pastures are destroyed
  • Extraordinary Costs due to lost supplies
  • Extra transportation costs to transport livestock to safer grounds or to move animals to new pastures

REGISTER HERE

Crops insured by federal crop insurance or by the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) are covered when floodwaters have rendered them valueless.

Crops insured by federal crop insurance or by the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) are covered when floodwaters have rendered them valueless.

http://naturalresourcereport.com/2012/11/crop-damage-hurricane-sandy-2/

http://www.rma.usda.gov/help/faq/basics.html  (Class Link)

 

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2013 Calendar of CE for Insurance Professionals is Unveiled. Complimentary Class Available.

The Insurance Community Center is proud to release the dates of its 2013 calendar of Continuing Education webinars.  Insurance professionals can now take CE classes for credit from the comfort of their office or conference room.

The Insurance Community Center (ICC), known and regarded for its excellent quality, highly regarded Continuing Education classes have just released the schedule for the first quarter of 2013. In addition to the unveiling of the 2013 calendar,  the ICC is reserving an afternoon class where California students can attend free of charge.

Classes that the ICC offers covers the spectrum of different insurance practices. Learning tracks include topics in the following subject areas: Commercial Lines, Personal Lines, Employee Benefits, Life Insurance, Contractors Insurance and Agricultural Insurance. Some of the most popular titles include: Business Income, Ethics, E&O, Intellectual Property, Homeowners, Voluntary Benefits and Construction Contracts.  New this year are titles such as: How to Insure a Manufacturer, Traps & Tricks of Personal Lines, Equine Insurance and Umbrella/Excess. The full calendar can be found at http://insurancecommunityuniversity.com/CEWebinarsCalendar.aspx

All of these webinar titles are between 2 and 4 credit hours.  The classes take place in a live interactive format, online. This allows the student to fully participate, ask questions and receive feedback all from the comfort of his or her office or conference room.

On Wednesday, November 14, the ICC is offering its popular Cyber Liability course for California agents. Anyone can join in on the class but credit if only approved for the state of CA. To register for this class, please click on the following link: https://student.gototraining.com/r/2873578383228194304. Space is limited, reserve your seat today!

 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Insurance News

 

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