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When is a Spectator a Participant? (PA)

December 12, 2013

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On March 31, 2007, Samuel Ketcham and Steven W. Guthrie, Jr. went to the Mercer Raceway Park and because they wanted to get close to the action, they purchased “pit passes” to watch the race.  Unfortunately, during the race a car driven by William Michael Lanigan struck the fence along the racetrack, seriously injuring Ketchum and killing Guthrie.
Lanigan and the Mercer Raceway Park were then sued, and a claim was submitted to the racetrack’s insurer for coverage.   An endorsement in the policy provided that there was no coverage for bodily injury to any “participant” against another participant while participating in a racing program.  The definition of participant in the policy included anyone with a guest pit pass.   The insurer thus denied coverage, leading to a breach of contract and bad faith action against the raceway’s insurer.
Although one would not typically consider a spectator to be a race participant, the court agreed that these parties fell under the policy’s broad definition of the term.  Since the insurer demonstrated the existence of these facts, and that it had learned them before deciding to deny coverage to the plaintiff, the court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment.
Thanks to Thalia Staikos for her contribution to this post.  If you would like more information please write to <a href="mailto:mbono@wcmlaw.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mike Bono</a>.

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