The most important question asked following a loss will always be “am I covered for this”?  As a gentle reminder to our readers, the best way to determine whether you have coverage is to read the policy, and not just the declarations page, because sometimes the answers lie in the policy itself. 

In a recent case out of West Virginia, Talbot 2002 Underwriting Capital Ltd. Et al. v. Old White Charities Inc., case No. 5:15-cv-12542 (S.D. W.V. Jan. 6, 2017), U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger granted summary judgment for the underwriters while dismissing a third party complaint filed by the policyholder, Old White Charities, Inc.

Old White Charities obtained a policy of insurance to cover payments to fans as part of a hole-in-one competition at Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The fans seated in the grandstand were promised $100 each for the first hole-in-one, and $500 for the second. Following the competition, Old White made a claim under the policy for $20,000, but was denied coverage based on a policy stipulation that they were unaware of.

When Old White filled out the application for insurance, the application required the hole to be at least 150 yards from the tee. When Old White obtained the policy, the binder stated the 18th hole must be at least 170 yards from the tee. Unfortunately for Old White, the hole was only 137 feet from the tee.

Based on the plain language of the policy, and no evidence that there was any uncertainty regarding the yardage requirement in the policy negotiations, Judge Berger granted the Underwriter’s motion and dismissed Old White’s complaint for coverage.