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Court rules against Bobby Knight's appeal

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Court of Appeals ruled today in favor of the insurance company in a case involving former Indiana University men's basketball head coach Bobby Knight in Robert M. Knight v. Indiana Insurance Company and Indiana University http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/08080701lmb.pdf. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Indiana Insurance Co. on Knight's breach of contract, bad faith, negligence, and punitive damage claims. Knight appealed, arguing the court erred in granting summary judgment on Knight's claims the company wrongfully denied his homeowners policy coverage and breached its duty to investigate and defend a lawsuit that arose in Knight's workplace.

In December 1999, while Knight was employed at Indiana University, he overheard assistant basketball coach Ronald Felling on the phone criticizing Knight's coaching abilities and referring to Knight in a derogatory manner. Knight advised Felling to find another job and later verbally confronted Felling in an office at Assembly Hall at IU with other assistant coaches present. Knight made physical contact with Felling as he tried to leave, contact Knight and his assistant coach and son Pat Knight described as a "bump." As a result of the contact, Felling was pushed backwards into a television set and later filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in April 2001. The lawsuit presented a wrongful termination claim against IU and alleged Knight's physical conduct against Felling violated 42 U.S.C. 1983.

In October 2001, Knight informed his insurer, Indiana Insurance Co. - with which he had a homeowner's policy - about the Felling lawsuit. In late October, the insurance company issued a reservation of rights letter to Knight that outlined liability coverages and exclusions.

In July 2002, the insurer took a recorded statement from Knight during which he said he "bumped into Felling," they "collided as (Knight) jumped up," and "(Felling) couldn't have been hurt." In August of that year, the insurance company sent a letter to Knight denying his coverage for the Felling lawsuit citing the "business exclusion" in his policy. On Aug. 30, 2002, Knight settled the lawsuit by paying $25,000 to Felling and admitting he shoved Felling in anger.

In 2004, Knight filed a complaint seeking indemnification from the insurer and IU. The insurer moved for summary judgment and Knight filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on the insurer's duty to defend. The trial court granted summary judgment for the insurance company.

Knight appealed, claiming the summary judgment was improper because Felling had no bodily injury and the trial court erroneously applied an insurance coverage exclusion involving bodily injury; that there is a genuine issue of material fact whether Knight acted with the intent to cause injury; and that the trial court erroneously concluded as a matter of law the insurance company had not breached its duty to defend.

The Court of Appeals ruled Felling did not sustain bodily harm, sickness, or diseases as a result of the event, which is how bodily injury is defined in Knight's policy. Because there was no bodily injury, there was no event to warrant coverage under the policy.

Also, the incident occurred at Knight's profession or place of business. His homeowner's policy excludes injury or damage "arising out of or in connection with a business engaged in by an insured."

Knight also claimed Indiana Insurance Co. breached its duty to reasonably investigate and defend the lawsuit and is entitled to reimbursement for his costs of legal representation. The Court of Appeals ruled it was a workplace incident that resulted in no bodily injury and a reasonable claims manager would be able to "discern the lack of contractual obligation at that juncture."
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  2. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

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  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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