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Justices divided on whether accident is covered by policy

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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled 3-1 Tuesday that an insurer for the Indiana Youth Soccer Association does not have to provide coverage for an accident involving a Carmel team during a trip to Colorado for a soccer tournament.

Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. authored the majority opinion, which found the insurance policy provided by Virginia Surety was unambiguous and did not require the insurer to provide coverage for the youth who were injured in the accident. Team members of Carmel Commotion, which is affiliated with IYSA, were in a rented van driven by their coach, Mark Castro, on their way to a “team-building” activity of white-water rafting when the van was in an accident.

The injured players and their parents sued Castro and IYSA’s insurance carrier seeking a declaration that IYSA’s insurance policy through Virginia Surety provided coverage while Castro drove the team to the white-water rafting activity. The trial court granted summary judgment to Virginia Surety; a divided Indiana Court of Appeals panel affirmed.

Examining the commercial lines policy at issue, the justices concluded that the accident did not occur while the van was being “used in the business of” IYSA. The high court deduced using the IYSA’s organizational documents that the association has three lines of business: promoting soccer; regulating competition, leagues, teams and players; and conducting specific events. For the policy to provide coverage for the accident, the van had to be used in one of those three lines of business. At the time of the accident the team nor Castro were doing any of those three things, so the accident wasn’t covered, wrote Sullivan in Sarah Haag, et al. v. Mark Castro, The Indiana Youth Soccer Association, Virginia Surety Company, Inc., et al., No. 29S04-1102-CT-118.

“Carmel Commotion’s ‘business’ is competing – along with the practicing, ‘team-building,’ and the like that comes with it. And while the IYSA promotes tournaments and regulates who plays in tournaments and even sponsors tournaments … the IYSA itself does not compete. The IYSA promotes soccer. It regulates playing soccer. It conducts soccer tournaments. But when an IYSA-registered team, with the help of its coach, competes in a tournament (even a tournament sponsored or sanctioned by the IYSA), the team is engaged in its own business, not that of the IYSA,” he wrote.

Justice Brent Dickson dissented because he found the policy to be ambiguous and should be construed to provide coverage under Indiana law. He disagreed with the majority’s narrow characterization of the “business” of the IYSA, and he wrote Virginia Surety should have clarified in its policy that travel to “team-building events” away from the soccer field should be excluded from coverage.

Justice Steven David did not participate.

 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

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