Brokers

Policy Haunts Halloween Attraction

A sunken haunted house attraction resulted in a lawsuit against the insurance broker.
By: | September 14, 2016 • 2 min read

It was a Halloween trick the theater company didn’t expect.

Between Oct. 31, 2014 and the following morning, the Foundation Theatre Group’s haunted house attraction on a floating stationary barge at Chicago’s Navy Pier sank during a storm.

A more disconcerting surprise came afterward: It discovered its commercial general liability insurer denied coverage.

The ghoul, according to the theater group, is their insurance brokerage, which they accuse of negligently failing to place insurance coverage that would “cover, among other things, storms and sinking,” according to a lawsuit filed on June 15.

Foundation Theatre Group sued New Lisbon, Wisc.-based Donat Insurance Services and Kenneth Donat, its director of special events, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, seeking at least $1.5 million in damages.

The brokerage was instructed to protect the theater company “for possible losses to the barge, including marine and hull risks, protection and indemnity insurance, pollution liability insurance, crew insurance and excess insurance,” according to the lawsuit.

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“Donat and Donat Insurance, acting as agents for Foundation, negligently failed to exercise the proper knowledge, skill and professional care of someone engaged in the business of procuring insurance policies … ,” the lawsuit alleged.

It noted that the brokerage “promotes themselves as ‘one of the best in the special events insurance industry,’ as someone a customer ‘can truly trust that knows the industry from the inside out,’ and as someone that can provide ‘the most comprehensive coverage available.’ ”

The sinking of the barge resulted in several different lawsuits, including one from Capitol Specialty Insurance Corp., which issued the CGL policy, seeking a court declaration that it does not need to provide a defense or indemnity to the theater group.

Donat’s attorney, Mitchell A. Orpett of Tribler Orpett & Meyer, said in an email that the brokerage denies any liability.

The litigation is “only one version of a complicated situation,” he said, and the theater group is “the target of several other companies who have attempted to blame Foundation and thereby escape their own responsibility and legal liability for the damages they caused at Navy Pier.”

He said the theater group’s lawsuit, “I am confident, [was] only reluctantly filed as a defense to the unwarranted claims of the others. I am confident as well that Foundation’s lawsuit will be resolved without any finding of liability against Mr. Donat or Donat Insurance Services.” &

The late Anne Freedman is former managing editor of Risk & Insurance. Comments or questions about this article can be addressed to [email protected]

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