12/17/2012

Who’s at Fault When Jingle Bells Crash Down?

December is a month filled with celebrations, decorating, gifts, and, sometimes, a few unwanted gifts such as liabilities for duties breached when they were owed and damages as a proximate cause.

By Mary Anne Medina

December is a month filled with celebrations, decorating, gifts, and, sometimes, a few unwanted gifts such as liabilities for duties breached when they were owed and damages as a proximate cause.

Ready or not, the holiday season is here. Christmas trees, garland, and decorations are being freshly cut and transported by tree-farming businesses, and their insurers are preparing for the holiday rush that accompanies their coverage. Yes, there are companies that specialize in insuring this seasonal specialty class of business.

While the need for these products spans a limited, short season, some of the claims for liability have been quite large. Trees and fresh decorations are in high demand during this time of year. Businesses may purchase as many as 5,000 trees and set up retail lots for their sale. The price these days can range anywhere from $25 to $250—possibly more. Those who own and operate the farms require coverage year-round for various activities and occurrences, but for foot traffic, they are usually visited between October and the end of December and are more of an agricultural risk.

Those who purchase trees and set up a retail lot in a shopping center or some other available space are required to furnish proof of insurance coverage for those little mishaps that occur on the premises. They are often required to carry products liability insurance for what may happen once the tree departs the lot. It is not unusual for the coverage requirement to be in the $1 million to $2 million range. A general liability policy usually starts around $300,000 and can be as high as $2 million, with 80 percent of customers choosing to carry $1 million in coverage.

So what kinds of liability claims are brought forth during the joyous event of selecting a Christmas tree? For the tree lots, there are not only a great number of slip and fall claims, but also those resulting from customers causing trees to fall on them, inexperience using cutting equipment, and a wide array of other claims of liability.

For those who love to outshine the neighbors but could do without all the work, a professional can be hired to decorate and put up all of those lights. Because it is a difficult job working with lights and wires in high places like trees and roof lines, it opens up liability exposures that are quite imaginable yet endless.

For those who have chosen to decorate for themselves, there is a multitude of lawsuits and claims alleging liability. While hanging decorations on his door, a Chicago man’s hand was punctured by a metal hanging fastener that was part of the garland. The claimant obtained an attorney and filed suit against the Home Shopping Network and others. The lawsuit alleged that the manufacturer owed a duty to the plaintiff, and that the manufacturer breached that duty. The breach of that duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries (a permanently injured thumb and forefinger), and the plaintiff suffered real damages as a result.

It would not be the holidays without parades! From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the Rose Parade, there is no shortage of parade claims and allegations of liability. In Beaumont, Texas, an eight-year-old girl died during a Christmas parade when she fell while walking beside a dance studio’s float and it ran her over. The family filed a lawsuit, naming the city, the truck operator pulling the float, and the dance studio.

November’s column examined the liability that party hosts and homeowners face when serving alcohol or allowing guests to bring their own into their home. The liability claims that arise out of work-sponsored parties are rampant, and none more abundant than those that occur during the holiday season. These include those from people who drink and drive causing harm and damages to others, not to mention sexual harassment claims that arise out of such parties.

In summary, I will leave you with this: The 12 Liabilities of Christmas:

1.    The food poisonings of holiday feasts, goodies, and parties.

2.   The hazards of fire places, dry trees with lights, and deep-fried turkeys.

3.   The parties with alcohol and too much fun.

4.   The crowded stores and shopping centers that become a mecca of slip and fall incidents.

5.   Traveling to grandmother’s and other destinations on highways and roadways in sometimes wintery conditions.

6.   Products and gifts that malfunction and work improperly causing harm and damages.

7.   Parades and gatherings of crowds with potential dangers too numerous to mention.

8.   Heaters, smoke detectors, and flammable flannel fabrics that come out with the cold weather.

9.   Crowded parking areas with less than adequate security.

10. The house guests, especially children, who might be injured on your premises and deem you liable for the conditions that caused the damages.

11.  Stolen identity and fraudulent use of others’ credit cards for purchases.

12. Bowl games filled with exposures, including crowds, intoxication, injuries on and off of the field, forged tickets, complicated travel issues, and a directly correlated rise in assaults.

It has been a busy year for liability as we close out our first year of “Who’s at Fault?” As the year ends, we have new liability exposures with the events of the holiday season. We will no doubt encounter accidents and occurrences in which liability will need to be determined. Who breached the duty owed? Were there damages as a result of the breach? Who is liable and will be responsible to compensate the damaged or injured party?

Like Rudolph’s red nose, we’ll be here to give you guidance.  


Mary Anne Medina is an instructor and course developer for Vale Training Solutions. She has extensive experience in claims process redesign and claims handling training, with an emphasis on liability loss adjusting. She has been a CLM Fellow since 2010 and can be reached at MMedina@vale-ts.com.



Mary Anne Medina is an instructor and course developer for Vale Training Solutions. She has extensive experience in claims process redesign and claims handling training, with an emphasis on liability loss adjusting. She has been a CLM fellow since 2010 and can be reached at MMedina@vale-ts.com.

Top Industry News

Powered by : Claimspages


wyndham