“Hey, sir, throw me a dublon!” While living just outside New Orleans in Waveland, Mississippi, thousands of other children and I shouted these appeals for completely useless duplicates during Mardi Gras. I’m sure our two Louisiana-based attorneys pictured above, Lucas Moorehouse and Harrece Gassery, know those calls for duplicates every year when Mardi Gras comes around.
Are duplicates covered by personal property if they are taken home and hoarded in a collection? Public adjuster Stephen Sarasohn and I have had a private discussion about what is personal property. I briefly researched the case law and came across an insurance case in Louisiana that discussed whether unplanned duplicates are personal property that is subject to a special restriction under a homeowners policy.1
The Louisiana court really knew what Mardi Gras’ duplicates were:
Mardi Gras souvenir duplicates are round objects, usually made of metal, given away by members of carnival organizations. Each organization has its own duplicates that are designed and produced annually. The vast majority of the dublons are cheap souvenirs thrown by riders on parade fleets to spectators along the parade route; however, some dublons with a large content of valuable metal are given away as benefits at bales. No duplicates are offered by the public sales organizations.
Many people locally began collecting the souvenirs, and duplicates are now bought, sold and traded through public and private channels. Of course, duplicates have never been used as a substitute.
Wikipedia notes that:
Mardi Gras duplicates were first created by New Orleans artist and entrepreneur H. Alvin Sharpe in 1959. Sharpe had its own metal molds to beat the duplicates from aluminum blanks. He presented a design to Darwin Schreiver Fenner, captain of the Krewe of Rex, the leading Mardi Gras organization of the time. As a result of the presentation, Schreiver personally funded the production of 3,000 duplicates for the 1960 Mardi Gras year, although Krewe of Rex produced 80,000 undated duplicates with Sharpe’s design, all of which were owned by an Ohio company.
Sharpe’s design was larger but lighter than US silver dollars, making them safe when throwing Mardi Gras … The undated design was intentional so that the dublons could be used as Mardi Gras throws in subsequent years.
Mardi Gras duplicates were common Mardi Gras throws in the late 1960s … During the years of production, there was a significant variation in shape and color. Some are made of materials other than aluminum. The standard aluminum double-throwers went through a period of significant overproduction, which has limited their value. But those made of silver or cloisonné often have a value that exceeds the metal itself. (fn and quotes omitted)
The question presented to the Court was:
Does a collection of Mardi Gras souvenir duplicates, stolen from the plaintiff’s house, constitute numismatic property so that it falls within the $ 100.00 limit contained in his homeowner’s insurance policy?
The policy contained:
This insurance covers unplanned personal property that is common or in connection with the use of the premises as a home, owned, carried or used by an insured, in all situations anywhere in the world …
The policy also had a “special liability limit”, which included:
2. According to coverage C, this company shall not be liable for any loss in respect of the following named property:
(a) for more than $ 100 in cash, precious metals, numismatic property and banknotes;
(b) for more than $ 500 in accounts, bills, documents, promissory notes, letters of credit, banknotes other than banknotes; passports, railway tickets and other tickets, securities and stamps including philatelic property;
(c) for more than $ 1,000 on manuscripts;
(d) for more than $ 250 on jewelry including watches, necklaces, bracelets, precious stones, semi-precious and semi-precious stones and articles of gold or platinum and fur articles or articles containing fur representing their principal value;
The insurance company refused to pay more than $ 100, arguing that special limitation 2 (a) applied.
While the insurance company relied on Webster’s dictionary to prove that Mardi Gras duplicates were within the specific limit, the policyholder engaged two numismatic experts and one English expert to support the conclusion that they were not within the specific limit.
The court found for the policyholder:
We conclude that duplicates are not included in the numismatic property policy limitation. The unplanned personal property coverage of the homeowner’s insurance is designed to protect most of the property in the home of the average person whose home is insured by the insurance. Some items, such as cars, do not fall within this scope and are specifically excluded. Other items, such as jewelry, are especially limited to a coverage that meets the needs of the average homeowner. Thus, an insured who regularly stores a large amount of jewelry in his home is informed by the restriction that additional insurance must be purchased to meet his special needs at his own expense, rather than at a cost to be distributed over the premiums of all insured. homeowners.
We interpret the $ 100.00 limitation clause as a whole that is intended to limit the coverage of property that is money or a form of money. Duplicates are at best medals that have no inherent monetary value and that have only one value relative to their desirability for collectors. In our view, the policy limitation was not intended to apply to duplicate collections.
We believe that the language of insurance does not, either through the ordinary meaning of the word or for the clear purpose of the limitation clause as a whole, adequately inform an insured that the insurance does not provide complete protection for a duplicate collection and that he must use scheduled coverage to secure this protection. Since the restriction does not apply, the plaintiff is entitled to the full value of the duplicates.
Interestingly, a footnote in the opinion indicated that the policyholder did not get everything he was looking for:
“The trial judge classified several of the duplicates, which contained large amounts of precious metals, as charms and then applied the $ 250.00 limit on jewelry to the loss of those particular duplicates to a value of $ 300.00.
Since the plaintiff has not applied for an increase, we specifically refuse to review the accuracy of this $ 50.00 rejection. “
One caveat is to check your policy for sub-limits for expensive items, which are discussed in Insurance agents and policyholders need to schedule jewelry for better coverageand Insurance of valuables and collectibles.
In Brazil you buy tickets to go to the stadium to see the carnival, but in Trinidad you buy a suit and participate. There are very few things that can compete with that experience.
1 Cotlar v. Gulf Ins. Co.318 So.2d 923 (La. App. 1975).