Participants in the Dirty Girl Mud Run in August 2015 went through the obstacle course, sliding into the mud pit, for fun and to raise money for charity. (Photo: S. Donlon)
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Athletes and fitness enthusiasts often enjoy participating in obstacle courses or fitness “challenges” organized by companies that specialize in similar events, for example, the Tough Mudder competitions. But what happens when someone is injured participating in such an event? What insurance coverage is available — if any?
In one recent case, a federal district court in Florida has ruled that exclusions in an insurance policy issued to a company that operated an obstacle course precluded coverage for claims by a participant in a race that he had been injured on the course.
Adam Durden sued Dirty Foot Mud Ranch, LLC, d/b/a Dirty Foot Adventure Run for injuries he allegedly sustained while competing in an obstacle course race at Dirty Foot. Durden alleged that:
— Dirty Foot leased the property and designed and created an obstacle course with the intention of inviting athletes to race on the obstacle course, but it was negligent in the design and creation of the mud pit by failing to include the proper water depth of the pit;
— After creating the obstacle course, Dirty Foot and another company organized a race and invited athletes, including Durden, to participate; and
— Durden suffered bodily injuries while competing in the race.
Maxum Indemnity Company, which had issued a commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy to Dirty Foot, denied coverage because Durden alleged that he had been injured during a mud race obstacle course on Dirty Foot’s property and its policy excluded coverage for claims by athletic or sports participants in any performance, contest, sport, or event.
Maxum then asked a Florida district court to declare that it did not owe any duty to defend or indemnify Dirty Foot Mud in Mr. Durden’s lawsuit.
Maxum moved for judgment in its favor.
The Maxum policy
The commercial general liability insurance policy Maxum issued to Dirty Foot provided coverage for bodily injury and property damage liability as follows:
We will pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of “bodily injury” or “property damage” to which this insurance applies. We will have the right and duty to defend the insured against any “suit” seeking those damages even if the allegations of the “suit” are groundless, false or fraudulent. However, we will have no duty to defend the insured against any “suit” seeking damages for “bodily injury” or “property damage” to which this insurance does not apply…
The policy defined “bodily injury” to mean “bodily injury, sickness or disease sustained by a person, including death resulting from these at any time….”
The policy also included an exclusion for athletic or sports participants and performers:
This insurance does not apply to any claim or “suit” for “bodily injury,” property damage,” “personal and advertising injury” and we shall have no obligation to indemnify or defend any insured for “bodily injury,” “property damage,” or “personal and advertising injury” from any person while participating or performing for or in any sports or athletic contest, event, or exhibition that you sponsor, including practice for such contest, event or exhibition.
In addition, the policy provided a further exclusion for participants and contestants:
This insurance does not apply to any claim or “suit” for “bodily injury,” “property damage,” “personal and advertising injury” and we shall have no obligation to indemnify or defend any insured for “bodily injury,” “property damage,” or “personal and advertising injury” which occurs while any person is preparing for, practicing for or participating in any performance, contest, sport or event.
The district court’s decision
The district court granted Maxum’s motion.
In its decision, it ruled that because Durden allegedly had been injured while participating in Dirty Foot’s obstacle course race, Maxum had no duty to defend or indemnify Dirty Foot based on the policy’s athletic and sports participant exclusion.
The district court also found that the policy’s participants and contestants exclusion applied because Durden allegedly had been injured while participating in the obstacle course race.
The case is Maxum Indemnity Co. v. Dirty Foot Mud Ranch, LLC.
John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981.
John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder.
In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home.
John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation.
John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates.
Service to the Community
John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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