11 Year Old Sinks Hockey Shot Worth $50k, Will the Insurance Company Pay?

August 18, 2011

During an intermission of a hockey game, Nate Smith, an 11 year old from Minnesota, shot a 3 inch hockey puck 89 feet through a 3 1/2 inch opening in front of a goal.  The prize for sinking this shot was $50,000.  The only problem, Nick Smith, Nate’s twin brother was randomly selected to take the shot.  He did not, and the rest has created an insurance coverage issue.  As reported by Eric Gilkey of propertycasualty360.com:

Hockey specialty events insurers beware: there is an 11-year-old ringer ready to cash in on the promotional policy you underwrote—and he may have a score to settle.

According to reports, last Thursday during a charity ice hockey game in the small town of Faribault, Minn., Nick Smith’s name was randomly drawn to compete for a $50,000 prize during an intermission.

The contest, which was underwritten by the company Odds On Promotions, is described as the company’s “most popular promotion.” The company says it consists of “randomly selecting a contestant from the crowd to take his or her best shot from the red line (minimum 87 feet). A template will require a near-perfect shot, yet a great prize will reward the future NHL star!”

When the shot was taken from 89 feet away, the three-inch-wide puck slipped right through the three-and-a-half-inch-wide opening in front of the goal.

The only problem? Nick’s twin brother Nate was the one who took the improbable shot. (See video above.)

Reports note that while Nick was outside the arena, his name was selected. Rather than waste the opportunity, Nick’s father reportedly sent down his other twin son, Nate. Nate lined up a perfect shot and the puck went in. However, the boys’ father came clean to promoters the next day, citing, “honesty as the best policy.”

According to Odds On Promotion’s web site, premiums for such a contest start at $500, although it’s unknown at this point how much the planning organization, the Faribault Hockey Association (FHA), paid for the policy.

When asked about the exact wording of the policy, Vance Vinar, Jr., the fundraising chair for FHA, seemed to indicate that policy language would preclude payment, although he would not state with certainty.

“What if the policy said in black and white that the person whose name was drawn must be the one taking the shot? Would the insurer have to pay?” asked Vinar when questioned about the specific policy language. All other questions were referred to the organization’s attorney.

Odds On Promotions responded to a tweet for more policy information by saying, “[The] policy is confidential between the client and insurer. Claims department is still investigating this matter.”

If what Vinar states is true, odds are low the claim will be paid, says coverage specialist Diana Reitz, editorial director for FC&S, a service that provides insurance coverage guidance.

“Insurance policies are contracts, and coverage is triggered based on how the contract is written,” she says. “We may believe—or perhaps even hope—that Odds On Promotions will pay the twins because it just seems like the right thing to do. But the reality is that, if the policy is written so that the person whose name is drawn must take the shot, any payment would be an accommodation by Odds On Promotions. And what are the odds of that?”

Given how much publicity was generated from the event and the statements by the parents that it would go towards their kids’ education as well as toward helping their current school, it’s going to be a difficult decision to make.

The insurers for this event have indicated it will take up to three weeks to determine whether to pay on this claim.

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NJ BECOMES THE FIRST STATE TO MANDATE THAT CHILDREN WEAR HELMETS WHILE SKIING/SNOWBOARDING

May 9, 2011

New Jersey has become the first state to pass a law requiring children under the age of 17 to wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding. Under the law signed by Governor Christie, the parent or guardian of the child not wearing a helmet will be required to pay a $25 fine. The fine for each subsequent infraction is $100. The law goes into effect November 1st for next ski season.

Erik Anderson

Reardon Anderson represents the interests of businesses, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.


Federal Court Holds that Jet Ski Rental Agreement Does Not Provide Indemnification for Riders Own Injuries

March 8, 2011

Recently, Judge Joseph Irenas of the United States District Court, Camden, held that a jet ski rental agreement did not provide indemnification to the rental company for injuries suffered by the jet skier rider. Instead, the court found that indemnification was only available to the rental company for injuries caused by the jet skier to others.

In this matter, Anthony Dinneno (13 years old) and George Djukanovic (18 years old) were guests of their friends, the Hughes family, on a trip to Wildwood, New Jersey. On August 30, 2007, the group went to Lucky Fin Water Sports to rent a jet ski. Dinneno was to ride as a passenger (due to the fact he was a minor) and Djukanovic was to operate the jet ski. As Dinneno’s parents were not present, Robert Hughes, the father of Dinneno’s friends, signed the rental agreement as the “parent/guardian or responsible party” for Dinneno. The rental agreement provided, in relative part, as follows:

NOW THEREFORE, in consideration of the permission extended to me by Lucky Fin Water Sports, LLC, through its officers, and agents to take such a trip or trips, I do hereby for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, remise, release and further discharge Lucky Fin Water Sports, LLC,…from all claims demands, actions, or causes of action on account of my death or on account of any injury to me which may occur from any cause during the trip or trips or continuation thereof, as well as any operations incident to such trip or trips.

The undersigned further agrees they shall indemnify and save harmless Lucky Fin Water Sports, LLC,…against all loss, cost or damage on account of any injury to persons or property occurring or rising out of this lease.

Mr. Hughes went to a restaurant while Dinneno and Djukanovic rode the jet ski. During their time on the jet ski, a collision occurred between the jet ski operated by Djukanovic and a jet ski operated by Mark Roy. As a result of this collision, Dinneno alleges to have sustained injuries. Accordingly, Dinneno’s father brought suit on behalf of his son against Lucky Fin, Roy and Djukanoovic. Lucky Fin in turn filed a third party complaint against Hughes seeking indemnification per the rental agreement he signed. Lucky Fin and Hughes subsequently filed motions for summary judgment motions for a determination with regard to the indemnification issue and liability as to Hughes.

The court found that the rental agreement signed by Hughes only obligated Hughes to indemnify Lucky Fin for injuries caused to another individual as a result of Dinneno’s actions. Additionally, the court found that Hughes could not be found negligent for the happening of the accident as he was on land when it occurred. Accordingly, the court granted Hughes’ motion for summary judgment as to liability and denied the motion for summary judgment filed by Lucky Fin, finding that no indemnification was owed by Hughes.

Importantly, the court noted that “the true issue in this case, which neither Lucky Fin, nor Hughes seems to recognize, is whether the release of Lucky Fin, which Hughes signed…is enforceable against Steven Dinneno, the ‘guardian ad litem’ bringing suit” on behalf of his son. As is noted above, the rental agreement signed by Hughes releases Lucky Fin from “all claims, demands, actions or causes of action on account…of any injury to me [Dinneno] which may occur from any cause during the trip.”

Accordingly, this is an issue which will have to be further litigated in this matter. However, New Jersey law is clear in that exculpatory clauses, signed by a minor’s guardian releasing the minor’s potential tort claim is prohibited by public policy. Hojnowski v. Vans Skate Park, 187 NJ 323 (2006). As such, it is likely that the release provision of the rental agreement will be found unenforceable.

Reardon Anderson represents the interests of businesses, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.