A few years ago, we shared a post titled The Uninsurable Risk of Clark Griswold. Much like the classic movie itself, that post has remained a season favorite among our blog readers. Today we take it a step further (with a little help from Rich Nouza, Liability Large Loss Consultant) to break down some of National Lampoon’s Christmas Holidays most iconic scenes as we explore the risks of liability * and the insurance implications of hosting the happiest Christmas since… yes, you know.
In the film, Clark’s cousin Eddie rolls into town in a motorhome that he is allegedly “borrowed from a friend”. Throughout the film, the “good-looking vehicle”; makes a number of appearances, including the infamous sewer scene.
What is the responsibility for lending someone your motorhome?
Assuming the coverage is similar to a personal car, the insurance would follow the motorhome. The person driving would be a permitted user and entitled to coverage under the motorhome policy. As such, the insured would have liability and coverage under the insurance.
Is there a difference between the responsibility of having guests inside your motorhome versus inside a home?
Yes. In a local liability situation with a home, the homeowner has certain obligations to warn the guests of known dangers etc. Assuming that a motorhome is related to a personal car, these obligations are not the same as they would be for a homeowner.
In addition to the camper, Eddie takes his entire family with him, including their beloved dog, Snots. Later in the film, Aunt Bethany shows up with her incorrectly wrapped cat, and introduces two furry characters in an already chaotic Christmas.
When a guest visits and brings a pet, how does it affect the homeowner’s responsibilities? If that animal were to harm someone in the home, then who bears the burden of that responsibility?
There would be a legal question as to who is the “harbinger or caretaker” of the pet. If the guest is present with their pet, the responsibility remains with the owner. If the pet owner leaves the premises and the pet is in the insured’s care, care or control, the responsibility can be transferred to the insured. There may also be additional responsibilities for the homeowner if they knew of any violent tendencies in the pet (ie, previous bites or aggression) and did not warn other guests, even if the pet owner is still present. With Pay would also be available.
Early in the film, it is revealed that Clark has plans to use his Christmas bonus to install a pool in the ground. Without his family knowing if it’s the plan to unveil the surprising pool plan on Christmas Eve.
How does a pool affect responsibilities as a homeowner?
The same type of liability analysis of premises would be done with respect to all claims related to a pool. Pools are often called an “attractive nuisance”, so young children walk to them, which is why fences, alarms, etc. are recommended to protect against these potential exposures.
Like all real holidays, food plays a crucial role throughout the film. In addition to a Jell-O shape decorated with cat food and several moose head mugs full of unfilled eggnog, one of the most iconic scenes is the Christmas dinner that went awry during which the extremely overcooked turkey unfolds in front of a table full of hungry diners.
Can a host be held responsible if they accidentally poison their guests with food poisoning?
The answer is probably “maybe” depending on the situation and whether the food poisoning would meet the definition of an “occurrence”. We would need to run the negligence test of obligations, breach of obligations, cause and effect to establish liability.
After a disappointing Christmas bonus arrives in the form of a subscription to the Jelly Club of the Month, Clark goes on an iconic tirade about his boss. A well-meaning (albeit very misguided) cousin Eddie undertakes to kidnap Clark’s boss and bring him back to the Griswold House so Clark can give him some of his mind. Shortly afterwards, the family is surprised by a SWAT team that bursts through all their doors and windows.
If SWAT plagues your house (smashes windows, doors, etc.), are these damages covered?
The type of damage is unlikely to be covered, as most homeowners’ policies include an exception for damage caused by government action. The government has sovereign immunity and would not pay for these damages. An exception to this exception is in respect of fire brigade damage caused during the fighting of a fire.
It may be easy to assume that these types of wild scenarios are limited to Hollywood theater, but we’ve been known to hear a memorable story or two passing through the halls of Central. Here are a few from our claims department:
No matter how you celebrate the season, we hope your holiday is safe, healthy and happy.
* The information above is of a general nature and your policy and coverage provided may differ from the examples provided. Please read your entire policy to determine your actual coverage.