Insurer Seeks Appellate Court’s Decision for Beach Ball Injury Lawsuit

A RumFest beach ball injury leads two nightclubs to appellate court, where their insurer continues to deny coverage for liability.
By: | February 6, 2020

During a rambunctious street party event in Orlando — known as RumFest — Robert Hunt was assaulted by a jumbo-sized beach ball. Owned by local nightclub personnel, the large inflatables were meant to be used as decorations for the event.

But an unknown attendee of RumFest set the balls loose on the crowd. When Hunt pushed the ball into the air to avoid being hit in the head, he allegedly suffered severe ligament and tendon injuries to his shoulder and elbow.

He sued the two nightclubs sponsoring the event — Hub City Enterprises and Wall St. Enterprises of Orlando.

The complaint filed by Hunt lists several identical theories of negligence against Wall Street and Hub City. He alleged they failed to maintain the premises, negligently provided over-sized beach balls, did not supervise or monitor the use of these balls or trained their agents and employees to prevent the crowd from using the beach balls.

Hub City and Wall Street held a commercial general liability policy through Appellee, Princeton Excess & Surplus Lines Insurance Company (PESLIC).

PESLIC, at first, agreed to defend the joint nightclubs. Then the insurer denied coverage, relying heavily on an “amusement device” exclusion in the policy.

The exclusion states that the insurer would have no duty to defend or indemnify its insureds in the event there was “ ‘bodily injury’, ‘property damage’, ‘personal and advertising injury’ or ‘injury’, actually or allegedly arising directly or indirectly … or in any way related to the …  use of an ‘amusement device.’”

A district court found that the over-sized beach balls fell under this definition of an amusement device, despite the fact that beach balls did not show up on the list of devices excluded under the policy.

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Hub City and Wall Street appealed to the court to reserve the ruling.

The nightclubs insisted that PESLIC knew well before its denial to defend that the large beach balls were purposely placed into a fountain pond to serve as a thematic decoration for the Caribbean-themed RumFest. Their purpose was not to be “thrown, struck, punched or otherwise batted around.”

They argued that it was for reasons like the underlying Hunt suit that it purchased GL policies in the first place.

Scorecard: The suit will move to appellate court, where the definition of “amusement device” will be re-evaluated.

Takeaway: When the safety of the public is a part of a business’s operations, establishing protocols and procedures to prioritize safe practices is key. &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]