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 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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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues