Tag Archives: teenagers

Cyberbullying: A Growing Social Phenomenon

English: Es...

What is cyberbullying?

“Cyberbullying” is a tactic used against children by use of technology to embarrass, threat, harass, humiliate or target them.  This can take place on the Internet, using such forums as Facebook or YouTube or mobile phones.  This term is used when it is an attacking minor against a target minor child.  When an adult becomes involved in the attack, it is referred to as cyberstalking or cyberharassment.

While bullying has been common problem for centuries, the use of technology has allowed the attacks to remain anonymous, at least for a time, and as a result, provide a forum for children that might not otherwise participate to do so.  Some recent studies:

• Ipsos, Published 1-2012 found 12% parents (worldwide) say their child has experienced cyberbullying
• Consumer Reports 2011 (US) found 1,000,000 children were harassed, threatened or experienced cyberbullying  on Facebook in the past year
• Cyberbullying Reasearch Center found 20% of students experience cyberbullying

On-line social sites and instant messaging seem to be the most common delivery method.

When schools try to get involved by disciplining the student for cyberbullying actions that took place off-campus and outside of school hours, they are often sued for exceeding their authority and violating the student’s free speech right. They also, often lose.

The results of this type of harassment for the victim range from embarrassment, humiliation, stress, anger, and in a some cases, suicide of the injured party.

That brings us to insurance:
Homeowner’s or Personal Umbrella policies:
Currently, there is no standardized approach to this type of liability claim.  However, last year, AAIS filed an exclusion that specifically removes coverage for “electronic aggression” in their Umbrella form.  Electronic aggression is defined by AAIS as “including but not limited to harassment or bullying committed by means of an electronic forum, including but not limited to a blog, an electronic bulletin board, an electronic chat room, a gripe site, a social networking site, a website, or a weblog; or by other electronic means, including but not limited to email, instant messaging, or text messaging.”

There is an exclusion that may apply in the standard ISO for expected or intended injury.  The exclusion has been expanded in the past few years to remove coverage whether or not the resultant injury or damage was what was expected or intended by the insured.

ISO has also created an option endorsement to specifically provide coverage for this type of loss.  Check with your insurance companies for availability.  The endorsement would “generally provide personal injury coverage to an insured with respect to personal injury arising from specified offenses including oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that slanders or libels a person, disparages a person’s goods, products or services, or violates a person’s right of privacy,” says ISO spokeswoman Katie McFadzean.

The lawsuit may include defamation, invasion of privacy, disclosure of privation information, intentional infliction of emotion distress.  An additional allegation may be directed toward the parent:  negligent supervision.  While the intentional act may be excluded, negligent supervision may still be covered.  One of the questions that this brings up, can a parent be held liable as well as insured for the actions of their children.  The answer is, maybe.  Various jurisdictions in the US have differed in their approach.  Some courts have found that in the absence of a specific exclusion for negligent supervision in the policy, that act is independent of the intentional act language and have allowed coverage.  Other courts have found that the broadened intentional act exclusion applies to both the act and the causation of negligent supervision.

So, with more insurance companies paying attention to this growing area of risk, you need to discuss ways to mitigate, not only possible harm to the insured’s own child, but the possible uncovered lawsuit if the insured’s own child gets caught up in cyberbullying another.

Check for signs:
• Look for changes in behavior, such as nervousness or social withdrawal, suddenly hiding the computer screen or closing cell phone abruptly
• Trouble sleeping
• Drop in academic performance

Reduce the risks of cyberbullying:
• Put the computer in the public area of the house – not in the child’s own room
• Check their social networking sites.  They must “friend” the parents.
• Check their email and text messages
• Educate the child about cyberbullying; reassure them that telling the parents will not make the situation worse, but will be corrected immediately

This change in social behavior is not abating but is, in fact, getting worse.  The child may object that the parent is “invading their privacy”.  It is important that the parent stand firm that it is their job to protect them until grown.

Written by:
Director of Education, Insurance Community Center & President, Segale Consulting Services, LLC


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She was drunk at her Junior High Dance. Who gave her the liquor?

This weekend I had a friend, Amanda, visit for a couple of days.  Within hours of arriving she got a call from her daughter’s school saying she (her 15 year old daughter) had to be picked up immediately because she and her friends had been drinking. The drama unfolded with her being picked up, suspended for at least a day and hopefully being an indentured servant at her home for an unlimited time frame.  But the question Amanda kept asking in heated tone was “where did you get the liquor”.  Finally, after escalating threats, the daughter admitted to getting the liquor from her friend’s parent’s home with whom she was spending the night.  Lucky in this case there were not any injuries—no one getting behind a wheel intoxicated—but, it could have happened and what then.

English: several liquor bottles Deutsch: einig...

As we look at the holiday season and the parties we give and attend (and those our children are attending) we have to revisit our treatment of this issue from our last holiday newsletter which discussed “Social Host Liquor Liability”.

Most of us are aware of business’s legal requirements to stop serving alcohol to people that are visibly intoxicated. This is especially true for those insureds in the business of serving alcohol. What we are not as aware of is the liability we assume by serving liquor in a social setting referred to as “social host” liability.

We cannot have this discussion without broaching the topic of parents who actually provide alcohol to minors in their homes—who become “social hosts” to under aged people. It may be that they do not serve the liquor to the minors but make it available or they allow alcohol to be brought in their home by their children’s friends. Some parents use a thought process that goes something like this: I would rather my child drink at home than attend a party and either drive home drunk or ride with someone who has been drinking. And here is the flaw in that thought process while you think you are providing a safe haven to your child, your friend’s parents may not share your same philosophy and, in fact, you have contributed to the delinquency of a minor. If that child gets hurt or hurts others and you contributed to that harm by providing alcohol, you will be named in the ensuing lawsuit and you may find yourself being held liable.

This brings us to the discussion of “social host” liquor liability. We become a social host whenever we are hosting an event that serves liquor be it a dinner party for another couple or putting on a wedding in our backyard. Examples of “social host” liability could be cases where our guest gets intoxicated and hurts themselves or causes injury to others; or the situation where our guest leaves our party and is involved in an accident as a drunk driver. Or, it could be a guest that leaves your party and is stopped and ticketed for drunk driving. I know you might be thinking “my friend…my brother in law would never sue me”. Surprise!

They will.

State laws differ as relates “social host” liability and not all states recognize social host liability. However there are some guidelines as to when a host serving liquor can be held liable:

-The host did, in fact, provide or serve liquor to the individual in question
-The individual was intoxicated and caused either bodily injury or property damage to a third party
-The host was aware or “should have been aware” that their guest was intoxicated
And now to the question of insurance when you are sued as a result of someone becoming intoxicated in your home and incurring or causing damage be it bodily injury or property damage.  The Homeowners Policy?  The Umbrella Policy? The answer is a “probably” yes but as always you have to check the policy.  While the Homeowner’s Policy may not have a specific liquor exclusion, most policies will have an “expected or intended injury exclusion” that the claims adjuster may or may not want to pursue. Whenever we talk about limits on a policy, these are specifically the type of situations that can take that $300,000 limit trying to respond to a $1,000,000 judgment.

The ISO 2000 edition says the following:

E.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, real or personal property, than initially expected or intended.
Could this exclusion be broad enough to remove coverage for the parents? Perhaps it could. Could you then look to the Personal Umbrella? Better read the form. Some forms have a liquor exclusion that applies when serving liquor to a minor.

Let’s talk for a moment about a business that occasionally or incidentally serves liquor. The Christmas season is the perfect time for this discussion. We go to our hairdressers and they offer us a glass of wine, or eggnog with a little bourbon. The office that decides rather than taking everyone to an expensive restaurant will have pizza and beer brought into the office for the big celebration. Is there coverage on the Commercial General Liability Policy for the liability of the business in these situations? Are these businesses in the “business of serving liquor”? The CGL provides automatic coverage as the exclusion only applies if the named insured is the business of manufacturing, selling, serving or furnishing alcoholic beverages. The result of this language is that a business typically has coverage for these “social” situations involving liquor.


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