Insurance broking for...a pope?

An insurance broker shares the process of developing comprehensive coverage for the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.

Risk Management News


When LeConte Moore served as a Catholic altar boy in his youth, he never could have expected that he would one day be tasked with preparing a major global city for a Vatican-sponsored papal visit. 
But after spending years drafting policies for such “mega events” as U.S. presidential inaugurations, Super Bowls and Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute with Whitney Houston, he was called upon to develop coverage for Pope Francis’ visit to this week’s World Meeting of Families (WMoF).
It didn’t happen entirely by divine intervention.
“Bill Curtis approached me about a year ago,” he said. “He knew that I handled the $13 million claim when Pope John Paul II postponed his trip to America in 1994, and he also knew that I specialized in this type of entertainment coverage,” said Moore, managing director of DeWitt Stern.
Curtis is part of Porter & Curtis LLC, which Moore credits as being “the liaison with the church.” The firm serves as Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s insurance agent, and its specialty in religious organizations was a fitting complement to Moore’s expertise in special events. 
The partners began working on the policy by examining “the big issue” of special event insurance: star insurance, also known as non-appearance or cancellation insurance.
Whereas insurers usually require that celebrities obtain a medical exam before high-profile appearances to verify their health status, “you can’t get a medical exam for the pope.” This issue is further complicated by the fact that when proving a loss, a medical follow-up is necessary, which “is not going to happen.  They’re not going to let insurance companies into the Vatican.”
While Lloyd’s of London is the typical underwriter for this coverage, Moore says that a papal visit necessitates a more creative solution.
“We have to find Catholic underwriters who trust in God that the pope won’t get sick,” Moore said.
The church ultimately decided against star insurance, but it was still required by the city of Philadelphia to obtain liability insurance.
“That’s the whole key to special event insurance, the liability insurance or the indemnity agreement of who is responsible for what,” Moore said. “Most people don’t realize it, but that’s the crux of the entire risk.”
Moore’s biggest challenge came in the form of two major variables: the first being that it’s impossible to know how many attendees will be present, and the second involving how broad the scope of coverage is. Unlike a football stadium where there’s a set capacity for ticketholders and the venue is simply the stadium and its parking lots, there are no set boundaries at the World Meeting of Families.
“With this, there is no perimeter,” Moore said. “Someone as far as a mile away could fall and get hurt, and the liability would end up on the policy we placed.”
Other considerations include:
  • Legal liability: “A lot of people think if something happens ina  church or synagogue, that person won’t sue. I don’t think that necessarily holds water anymore, maybe it did years ago, but the litigious climate in America has changed since then,” Moore said.
  • Host liquor liability: WMoF will not be selling liquor for business, so it doesn’t need full liquor liability. It may, however, distribute small amounts of wine, similar to a fundraiser that toasts to champagne. This would require host liquor liability coverage.  
  • Fireworks: Moore requires the pyrotechnics operator to carry its own insurance policy, and then his policy will be contingent on top of that, in case it’s not sufficient.  
  • Temporary structures: although Moore says that many insurers are tempted to exclude this coverage, such fixtures as the platform that church representatives will stand on, bleachers and JumboTrons present a much higher degree risk than permanent ones.
While these may seem insurmountable, Moore says that there are many factors that make it an easier task than many of his other assignments.
“[Pope Francis] has every federal agent, secret service officer and even federal and state agencies making sure everything goes well, which is the best event security you can get,” Moore said. “Even the Super Bowl doesn’t have that kind of security.”

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