Liability Claim Trends in Our Current Climate

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Photo © Lauren Mauldin

BY BRIAN APPLEBEE

Standard insurance for your horse or equestrian business doesn’t include coverage for personal injuries such as negligent the social media behavior of infliction of emotional distress, slander, and defamation. While the horse industry has many exceptional people and amazing qualities, it undeniably has its volatile moments.

In this age of rapid and pervasive social movements, prolific scandals all over the news, and the ability of social media to exacerbate matters; how do high-profile families and ultra-high net worth individuals protect themselves from potential liability and damages? We recently sat down with Brian Applebee of AIG Private Client Group, a division of the member companies of American International Group, Inc. (AIG), to get an understanding of how high-profile individuals can plan ahead to mitigate the risks. 

Wrongful Accusations

Plaid Horse: When dealing with individuals that have many eyes on them in the public sector, malicious prosecution and wrongful accusations can feel inevitable. What can someone do to offset the damage caused by such a situation? 

Brian: Clearly sexual misconduct and criminal acts are uninsurable; there is no insurance solution for those acts. However, related tort allegations such as negligent infliction of emotional distress as well as slander/defamation are potentially covered under certain policies. High-profile individuals should consult with qualified insurance advisors to establish a comprehensive risk management strategy that includes broad liability coverage with personal injury coverage.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Social Media, Cyber Bullying and Slander

Plaid Horse: In the equestrian industry, social media is more important than ever with many businesses turning to Facebook and Instagram to showcase their students and horses. However, the internet and social media have interconnected our lives to the extent that one individual can easily and negatively impact another person or business simply by posting comments or information on websites or social media platforms. Care to comment?

Brian: With the proliferation of social media outlets and usage, we are seeing a whole new class of lawsuits. Generally, the allegation is slander/defamation of one’s character and societal standing. Initially, the industry was concerned about the social media behavior of minors. However, reality has shown that adults are equally capable of making these mistakes. 

We can look to the headlines for countless examples of social media exposure. One particular celebrity has been sued for defamation of character multiple times based on content in her social media posts. The “protected speech as a First Amendment right” defense has been used with inconsistent success, resulting in multiple judgments totaling three-quarters of a million dollars. Posting critical comments creates a liability risk that may or may not be defensible.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Upgraded Protection is a Must-Have 

Plaid Horse: Can you further explain the types of policies ultra-high net worth families should explore given the current environment?

Brian: Absolutely. As you mentioned earlier, standard policies do not include coverage for personal injuries such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander, and defamation. An excess liability policy offered by providers who cater to successful families, on the other hand, will automatically include personal injury. Coverage may respond for the examples provided above. Furthermore, it should be noted that a major expense tied to these claims is the cost of defense. Therefore, personal injury coverage not only protects the policyholder from indemnity exposure, it also will trigger the insurance carrier’s duty to defend.

I also want to again stress the importance of working with an independent insurance advisor who truly understands the risks that come with personal wealth. Many families buy umbrella policies in the standard marketplace, which typically cap coverage at $5 million. If that figure doesn’t measure up to the family’s net worth, personal assets could be fair game in the event of a lawsuit. 


Brian Applebee is the Casualty Claims Director of AIG Private Client Group in the United States, a division that specializes in property and casualty insurance solutions for high net worth individuals and families. 

Brian joined AIG Private Client Group in 2002 and has held various roles with increasing responsibility throughout his tenure. This includes roles in the field and Home Office. Brian continues to be active in high exposure and high profile claims.  Furthermore, he regularly attends mediations and trials.  

Previously, Brian spent his career in a multitude of Casualty claim roles in the Property Casualty industry working in both the Personal and Commercial industry. Brian graduated from Siena College in Loudonville, NY and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

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