Commercial Insurance – The Not-So-General Liability Policy

Most restaurant owners have, at one time or another, witnessed a fight at their establishment.  But did you know that given the current state of Indiana case law, you may be held jointly liable for injuries sustained in a fight, and you may not have coverage from your insurer for such liability.  Ultimately you may have to pay for the injuries (or death) out of your own pocket.

In March 2012, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided the case of Santelli v. Rahmatulla.  There, it was held that a premises owner could be liable for the intentional criminal acts of a third party.  If a jury determined the premises owner did not provide reasonable security in a given situation, that business owner would be held responsible for the full verdict, despite the fact that a co-defendant committed the crime.  The rationale supporting the decision was the insurability of the premises owner vs. the insurability of the perpetrator of the crime. 

What’s worse, in July 2012, the Court of Appeals decided Alea v. London, Ltd v. Nagy, et al.  The Court upheld a decision holding an insurer not responsible to pay for injuries sustained in a bar fight due to an exclusion in the owner’s Commercial General Liability policy concerning injuries sustained by assault and/or battery. 

These cases, when taken together, would stand for the premise that a bar owner could be jointly liable for injuries sustained in a bar fight, and if his insurance policy contained the appropriate exclusion, he or she would have no coverage to pay for such liability.  The result, if the injuries are severe enough, could mean the end of the business.  If you own a business of any sort, be sure you are covered for the injuries sustained in the unfortunate situation where a crime is committed on your premises. 

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