Insurance company escapes bull rider coverage

Lawyer error sees claim against rodeo competitors hit the rails

Insurance company escapes bull rider coverage

Legal Insights


When bull riders Chandler Durbin, Christian Cox and others got in a drunken brawl with Blake Stuckey, he issued a lawsuit. The complaint consisted of 17 counts that alleged causes of action against each defendant for his injuries sustained by Stuckey on April 7, 2018, as a result of battery, assault, civil conspiracy to commit battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment. The court gave a summary judgment in Stuckey’s favor, so the two turned to a farm liability policy that Cox and Durbin’s parents were the beneficiaries of to help fund an appeal.

However, In the case of Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. v. Durbin, Farmers Mutual sought a declaratory judgment from the court to determine that it was not obligated to provide defense under the insurance policy for the claims against the two.

The complexity of the case increased with the filing of multiple amendments to the complaint in the underlying lawsuit, which, in what appears to be a drafting error, eventually led to the filing of a second amended complaint that did not assert any claims against Durbin or Cox. Based on this second amended complaint, the insurance company moved for summary judgment in the declaratory judgment action, arguing it had no duty to defend Durbin and Cox in a lawsuit where they were no longer defendants.

The appellate court’s review focused on the mootness of the appeal, given the evolving nature of the underlying lawsuit. The court noted that the second amended complaint, being the controlling complaint, did not include any causes of action against Durbin or Cox. Therefore, any decision regarding the insurance company’s obligation to defend them would be moot as there were no longer any allegations against them to defend.

The court emphasized the principle that it does not decide moot or abstract questions or render advisory opinions. Since there was no actual controversy or issue to resolve regarding the duty to defend Durbin or Cox due to the withdrawal of claims against them, the appeal was dismissed.

This case highlights the importance of closely monitoring the pleadings and developments within the underlying litigation that an insurance policy might cover. Changes in the allegations or parties involved can significantly impact an insurer’s obligations, demonstrating the dynamic relationship between ongoing litigation and insurance coverage decisions.

Farmers Mutual is not affiliated or associated with Farmers Insurance.

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