Nearly 13 years after a stampede by fans at a celebrity basketball game, an insurance dispute over Heavy D & the Boyz's coverage for deaths and injuries at the event was tried without a jury in a
NEW YORK -- Nearly 13 years after a stampede by fans at a celebrity basketball game, an insurance dispute over Heavy D & the Boyz's coverage for deaths and injuries at the event was tried without a jury in a New York Supreme Court.
In its Aug. 9 decision, the court declared that the commercial general liability policy issued by National Union Fire Insurance covered Heavy D and his company.
In 1991, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs contracted with the student government at City College in New York to put on a celebrity basketball game at the school. The student government provided the facilities, and Combs provided the insurance, celebrities and promotional materials. Both parties sponsored the event.
Combs coached one of the teams, and he recruited Heavy D to coach the other. Heavy D also appeared on a radio show to promote the event.
When the facility could not hold the huge crowd that appeared, fans began pushing and shoving. Nine people died and 29 were reportedly injured in the resulting stampede. Heavy D and Combs, among others, were sued for the deaths and injuries.
Heavy D's policy covered bodily injury and property damage but excluded coverage for promotional activities if he contracted with arenas and other venues and, in the contract, held the facility harmless from claims for damages. The policy also excluded coverage for concert tours if they were not reported in advance.
National Union sought to avoid indemnifying Heavy D under these two exclusions.
In its opinion, the court held in favor of coverage. First, the court found initial coverage in that the policy covered Heavy D as an entertainer for the personal injuries and loss of life. Next, the court refused to apply the exclusions.
The court held that Heavy D did not contract for the event, so the promotional activities were not excluded. Even if he were a party to the contract, his appearance on a radio program was not for self-promotion; the court distinguished between self-promotion (excluded from coverage) and promoting something else (not excluded from coverage). Advertising the event was "far different" from promoting himself.
Further, the basketball game was neither a concert nor a tour, so Heavy D was not required to report the event in advance.
In this declaratory relief action, the court declared that National Union is obligated to indemnify Heavy D and his company with respect to the personal injury and wrongful death actions against them.