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Great American Alliance Insurance Co. v. Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

July 5, 2017



          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge

         This case principally concerns whether Defendants, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and Kendra Brown, have insurance coverage under a Great American policy for potential liability in a suit pending in Morgan County. In that case, damages are being sought against them for injuries sustained by Karlee Richards after she fell while zip-lining at The Edge, a ropes course at Windermere's Conference Center. Kendra Brown was an employee of Windermere, working at the Edge at the time of the accident.

         In June 2014, Karlee Richards and her Searcy Baptist Church youth group were attending a summer camp at Windermere's Conference Center, which was sponsored by Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Conference, d.b.a. Student Life.[1] Student Life contracted with Windermere to hold the church camp at Windermere's facility in Missouri. Student Life had a liability policy with Great American, and Windermere was an additional insured on that policy. The additional insured endorsement provides that the additional insured, in this case Windermere, is only covered for “liability arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of that portion of the premises leased to [Student Life] [by Windemere].” [Doc. 35-17, p.1 (“Endorsement”)]. Great American contends that Windermere is not entitled to coverage for Kaylee Richards's injuries because Windermere did not “lease” the Edge to Student Life because the Edge was not specifically mentioned in Student Life's written agreement with Windermere.

         Pending before the Court is Great American's Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 34]. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Undisputed Facts [2]

         A. The Student Life Camp at Windermere

         Windermere Baptist Conference Center is a large Conference Center on the Lake of the Ozarks with over 300 acres and 126 buildings, including group lodging, a dining hall, conference space, cabins, a chapel, and a gift shop. Windermere also offers various recreational facilities and activities at its campus, including the Edge. Organizations like Student Life use Windermere's facilities for summer church camps.

         Student Life had been conducting camps at Windermere for about ten years prior to its June 2014 camp. In January 2014, Student Life and Windermere executed an Amended Conference Contract. The “Amended Conference Contract, ” provides:

Amended Conference Contract
. . .
Event Name: Student Life #1 '14 (June 2-6, 2014)
Expected #: 1000 Arrive Dated: Saturday, May 31, 2014
(Check in begins at 3:00 PM. Rooms may not be available until 6:00 PM. . .)
Depart Dated: Saturday, June 7, 2014
Lodging Check out time is 11:00 AM. Keys must be turned in by this time. . .)
Lodging Type
Per Person (Student Life Extra)
Per Person (Student Life Extra)
Per Person (Student Life '14)
1, 000
$70, 000
Total for Lodging: $71, 137.50
$56, 910.00
You will need to provide Windermere a rooming list (names of individuals occupying each room) and a copy of your conference or retreat schedule at the time of check-in.
. . .
Total for Meals: $76, 570.00 Minimum $61, 733.00
. . .
All guests eating in the dining hall must have a meal ticket or wrist band to be admitted into the Dining Hall.
. . .
Facility/Room Start End Cost
Wilderness Creek Auditorium (1500) 6/1/14 8:00am 6/6/14 12:00pm
Deer Ridge Conf Rm 1 (30) 6/2/14 3:00pm 6/6/14 12:00pm
Total for Conference Space: $0.00
Use of conference space and facilities begins at the start time stated in the contract. Conference or facility space usage time ends at the time stated in the contract and must be empty of all guests and guest items. . . .
Estimated Total Payment $147, 707.50
Total Minimum Payment $118, 643.00 . . .
Property Damage/Abuse
The above named group will have financial responsibility for any damages and excessive wear and tear it incurs to the Windermere grounds, facilities or property to the extent that such damage or excessive wear and tear arises from the negligence or willful misconduct of the above named group. Cleanup of any facilities or grounds that are excessively dirty will be the financial responsibility of the group.

[Doc. 35-5 (“Amended Conference Contract”)].

         The parties' Amended Conference Contract does not identify every building or activity that was available to campers during Student Life's camp at Windermere. For example, the chapel, which is made available to any group attending a camp at Windermere, is not listed. In addition, the dining hall is not specifically listed under the “Conference Space Information” heading, despite the Amended Conference Contract listing a price for meals Windermere is to provide.

         In addition, it is undisputed that Windermere offered various free recreational activities to its guest campers, including those who attended the Student Life camp. Windermere also offered some special recreational activities that required an additional fee and reservations. The Edge was one such activity. The Edge, a ropes and zip-lining course, is not accessible to campers at Windermere without special scheduling, the purchase of tickets, and the execution of a “Recreational Release” form. Student Life advertised Windermere's recreational facilities, including “The Edge, ” as available for use to its campers, and it was Student Life's expectation that these facilities would be available.

         In addition to the Amended Conference Contract, Student Life also completed a Facilities Request Form, and Windermere completed a Fax Back Response Sheet. [Docs. 40-3 and 40-4].

         The Fax Back Response Sheet provides:

Student Life Camp Windermere Conference Center
What are some free-time options on your campus?
• Sand Volleyball, Outdoor Basketball, Tennis, Mini Golf, Disc Golf, Pool, Hiking, The Edge (low/high ropes course), Paintball, Waterfront Activities (Inflatable water park, kayak, canoe, paddle boats, fishing, etc) (See attached PDF on available Recreation Packages).

[Doc. 40-4, p. 3].

         B. Great American Insurance Policy

         Student Life is the named insured on a Commercial General Liability policy with Great American. The policy requires that all requests for medical payments be made within one year of the accident that gives rise to the insurance claim. [Doc. 42-2, p. 62 of 166]. Also, when there is other valid and collectible excess insurance coverage, the Great American policy provides that Great American will have no duty to defend its insured against a claim for damages. [Doc. 42-2, p. 67-68 of 166].

         Because Student Life was contracting with Windermere for its event, Windermere was named as an additional insured on Student Life's Great American policy. The Certificate of Liability Insurance was issued by Great American on May 8, 2014, and Windermere accepted. The Certificate referenced Great American's policy issued to Student Life, Policy No.: GLP 0310189 and stated:

Event: Student Life Event Dates: May 31-June 7 and June 14-20, 2014 Windermere Conference Center is included as Additional Insured on the General Liability policy, as per endorsement #CG 82 24, ed. 12/01, and on the Automobile Liability policy, as per endorsement #CA 8518, ed. 6/09.

[Doc. 35-7 (“Certificate of Liability Insurance”)].

         C. The Underlying Lawsuit

         The Searcy Baptist Church youth group was one of the groups of campers that attended Student Life's camp at Windermere in June of 2014. Karlee Richards and the rest of the Searcy youth group were scheduled to ride The Edge on June 4, 2014. They paid Windermere an additional fee for this activity. While zip-lining at The Edge that day, Richards fell and ...

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