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AFIG News & Press Releases
New York is 48th State to Enact an Equine Activity Liability Law

An important development occurred on the equine liability front last week – New York became the 48th state to enact some form of equine activity liability legislation (“EALA”).  While some applaud this law, equine operations are advise to be cautious.

On October 17, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law that state’s version of an equine activity liability statute. Here is a link.  The new law took immediate effect once signed and is unlike any of the 47 other laws. Your insureds who stand to benefit from it should begin complying immediately – but unfortunately the law raises more questions than it answers.

New York’s law benefits “Agricultural Tourism” and includes “equine activities both outdoors and indoors” within the definition and includes a special definition of “equine therapy” to include “equine activities for children or adults with physical or mental disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder or other condition for which equine therapy is sought for therapeutic purposes or treatment.”

New York’s new law applies to “operators” of “agricultural tourism” activities, but compared to other state EALAs that more clearly describe those to whom they apply (such as to “equine activity sponsors,” “equine activity professionals,” or “other persons”), New York’s law contains no such specificity. 

Conditional Liability Limitations 

On the positive side, the liability limitation section within this law states:

Owners and operators of agricultural tourism areas shall not be liable for an injury to or death of a visitor if the provisions of this subdivision are complied with. 

Emphasis added.  However, as can be seen, the law makes immunities conditional upon compliance with responsibilities as the law describes as to “operators” and “visitors.”

Responsibilities of “Operators”

Section 18-303(1) provides that “operators” of “agricultural tourism areas” “shall” have these responsibilities:

  • “To post and maintain way finding signage to delineate the paths, areas and buildings that are open to the public” [Section 18-303(1)(A). Please note that the law provides no suggested language for this signage.];
  • “To adequately train employees who are actively involved in agricultural tourism activities” [Section 18-303(1)(B). Please note that the law does not explain what qualifies as “adequate” training.];
  • “To post at every point of sale or distribution of tickets, whether on or off the premises of the agricultural tourism area, a conspicuous ‘warning to visitors’ relative to the inherent risks of participating in activities on working farms and to provide written information having such text and graphics as the commissioner of agriculture and markets shall specify, which shall conspicuously direct the attention of all visitors to the required ‘warning to visitors’” [Section 18-303(1)(C); emphasis added.  Please note that these requirements apply to “operators” who sell or distribute “tickets,” and it offers no suggested language for “inherent risks” or “written information.”];
  • “To post at every point of sale or distribution of tickets at an agricultural tourism area a conspicuous notice to visitors that pursuant to this article such visitors have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care regarding the disclosed risks of the agricultural activity, and reasonably comply with posted way finding signs, reasonably remain in areas designated for the agricultural tourism activity, reasonably follow any and all written and conspicuously posted rules of conduct provided by such operator to visitors or verbal or other communication for persons with disabilities, and not to willfully remove, deface, alter or otherwise damage signage, warning devices or implements, or other safety devices”; [Section 18-303(1)(D) – As with the section above, this applies to “operators” who sell or distribute tickets and offers no suggested “rules of conduct.”];
  • “To take reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable risks to visitors, consistent with the responsibility of a landowner to keep his or her premises reasonably safe for intended and reasonably foreseeable uses and users, and to post conspicuous notice to visitors of the right to a refund to the purchaser in the amount paid in the initial sale of any tickets returned to the operator of the agricultural tourism area, intact and unused, upon declaration by such purchaser that he or she believes that he or she is unprepared or that he or she is unwilling to participate in the agricultural tourism activity due to the risks inherent in the activities or the duties imposed upon him or her by this section” [Section 18-303(1)(E)].

Responsibilites of Visitors

 

Section (2) of the law states that visitors to “agricultural tourism areas” have certain responsibilities, which are:

  • “To exercise reasonable care regarding the disclosed risks of the agricultural activity” [Section 18-303(2); emphasis added.  As this suggests, “operators” should take care in disclosing risks, but the law offers no suggestions.];
  • “To reasonably comply with posted way finding signs and reasonably remain in areas designated for the agricultural tourism activity” [Section 18-303(2)(A)];
  • “To reasonably follow any and all written information or conspicuously posted rules of conduct provided by such operator to visitors, or verbal or other form of communication of rules of conduct where needed for effective communication for people with disabilities” [Section 18-303(2)(B); this requires posted “rules of conduct,” verbal “rules of conduct,” and/or “written information,” but the law offers no details.]; and
  • “Not to willfully remove, deface, alter or otherwise damage signage, warning devices or implements or other safety devices” [Section 18-303(2)(C)].

How “Operators” Can Comply

  • Help your New York insureds and proposed insureds understand the new statutory responsibilities and the importance of their compliance with them.
  • Depending on your insured’s operations, it could be required to “disclose risks of the agricultural activity,” post “way finding signs,” post “rules of conduct” in a conspicuous way and/or discuss “rules of conduct.”
  • In a legal dispute, your insureds may be forced to defend their practices of training their workers.  Employee manuals, written training materials, and formal training programs are largely unknown to people in the equine industry. As one option, larger operators might consider sending key workers for equine industry certification, which would reflect knowledge, training, and skill.
  • The law requires sign posting in a manner unlike most other EALAs in existence.  It has no letter size or color requirements, and it merely describes types of signage.

Julie Fershtman’s Comments and Suggestions 

Here are my personal comments regarding New York’s law:

Details are missing. The law may generate confusion because it combines equine activities with numerous other activities (such as “U-pick” farms, farm tours, winery tours, and others).  It offers little direction regarding compliance.  As noted above, for example, “operators” of “agricultural tourism areas” are required to “post at every point of sale or distribution of tickets, whether on or off the premises of the agricultural tourism area, a conspicuous ‘warning to visitors’” and to provide certain written information; for them, “warning” signs and materials for these activities must include “text and graphics” of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.  As of now, that department has not yet issued “text and graphics.”  

 “Negligence” is an exception. The law appears to allow liability for ordinary negligence as Section 18-303(1) requires “operators” to “take reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable risks to visitors consistent with the responsibility of a landowner to keep his or her premises reasonably safe for intended and reasonably foreseeable uses and users ….”  This reflects a negligence standard since negligence claims involve allegations of “unreasonable” conduct.  That, in my opinion, renders this law weaker than the majority of other EALAs that have no such “negligence”-type language.

 Liability hot spots. In the years ahead, litigation will probably focus on any of the following:

(1)  whether the insured/defendant qualified as an “operator” to whom the law applies (since the law seems to leave a question of whether it applies to non-professionals, such as people who merely stable or keep horses or people who have no home base for their activities);

(2)  which conditions, as prerequisites to immunity for “operators,” applied when an injury arose;

(3)  which prerequisites were/were not satisfied;

(4)  adequacy of the “operator’s” “warning signs,” “written information,” and “rules of conduct,” if required;

(5)  adequacy of worker training; and/or

(6)  “reasonableness” of landowner’s conduct. 

 Also, before this statute was enacted, New York courts recognized assumption of risk as a defense, but it is unclear if this statute impacts this defense.  In my opinion, an argument should be made that the defense remains, but expect claimants’/plaintiffs’ counsel to argue otherwise. 

 Waivers/release law seems unchanged. Although the law nowhere mentions waivers or releases (unlike numerous other state EALAs), nothing in this law expressly forbids their use.  As I’ve written for many years, New York law has not been ideal regarding waivers/releases, but some precedent exists enforcing them in limited settings.  (Contact me for more information.)

 Signage is not enough. In my opinion, providers of equine activities have every incentive to do more than post “warning,” “rules of conduct,” or other signs – they should consider repeating them in written agreements for customers, visitors, and guests of legal age (18 and older) to sign.  In my experience working on equine matters around the country, plaintiffs usually deny seeing signs.

Underwriting tip. Agricultural and equine insurance underwriters should consider requiring prospective insureds to show photographs each posted sign as well as copies of waivers/releases and written documents pursuant to this new law.

 Don’t forget New York’s unique equestrian helmet law.  The New York Equestrian Helmet Law was amended in 2013 and requires persons less than 18 years of age to “wear a helmet meeting or exceeding ASTM F1163 when riding a horse.”  Consider reminding insureds about this law, too.

 

 

 

Global Indemnity to Acquire American Reliable from Assurant Specialty

Assurant Specialty Property, a business segment of Assurant Inc., has agreed to sell its general agency business and associated insurance carrier, American Reliable Insurance Co., to Global Indemnity Group Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Dublin-based Global Indemnity, for approximately $114 million in cash. Global Indemnity will also assume approximately $280 million in customary insurance related liabilities, obligations, and mandates.

American Reliable, which is based in Scottsdale, Arizona and has an office in Omaha, Nebraska, writes specialty personal lines and agricultural property and casualty insurance through a network of general and independent agents. Its product lines include manufactured housing, watercraft, recreational vehicles, farm and ranch, and federal flood insurance. American Reliable recorded $250 million of net earned premiums in 2013.

Global Indemnity plc provides both admitted and non-admitted specialty property and casualty insurance coverages in the United States, as well as reinsurance worldwide. The holding company was formed in 2010 under the laws of Ireland. Its U.S. operations are composed of six insurance companies: Penn-America Group, Diamond State Group, United National Group, J.H. Ferguson & Associates/VacantExpress.com and Collectibles Insurance Services. These firms have offices in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and Hunt Valley (Maryland).

Its non-U.S. operation is Global Indemnity Reinsurance Co. Ltd.

Cindy Valko, Global Indemnity’s CEO, said American Reliable enhances Global’s position in the U.S. as a specialty personal, agricultural and commercial property and casualty insurance provider. “The combination of American Reliable with Global’s Penn-America, United National, and Diamond State operations will provide Global’s and American Reliable’s employees and wholesale and MGA partners with complementary products, infrastructure and underwriting expertise,” she said.

Assurant Specialty Property sells insurance services in partnership with mortgage lenders, property managers, financial institutions, manufactured home sellers, auto finance companies and their customers. Services include insurance tracking and management and lender-placed homeowners insurance, property preservation services, and property and personal coverage such as renters and flood insurance.

“Assurant Specialty Property is focused on accelerating our momentum within the mortgage and multifamily housing industries,” said Gene Mergelmeyer, president and CEO of Assurant Specialty Property. “The sale of American Reliable Insurance Co. allows us to better align our portfolio of businesses, increase resources allocated toward these markets and strengthen our core business.”

With approximately 17,500 employees, Assurant has approximately $30 billion in assets and $9 billion in annual revenue.

The transaction is expected to close following regulatory approval and satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

ACE Completes Acquisition of Agribusiness Insurer Penn Millers, November 30, 2011

ZURICH–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ACE Limited (NYSE:ACE) announced today that it has completed its acquisition of Penn Millers Holding Corporation (PMHC) (NASDAQ: PMIC) for approximately $107 million in cash.

PMHC’s primary insurance subsidiary, Penn Millers Insurance Company, provides specialty property and casualty insurance coverages to companies that manufacture, process and distribute agricultural products. Based in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the company has served the agribusiness market since 1887 and operates in 34 states.

“We are pleased to complete this transaction, which provides us with an established, specialty niche business and offers us the opportunity to expand our substantial agricultural market capabilities offered through our Rain and Hail crop insurance and ACE Westchester excess and surplus lines businesses,” said Brian Dowd, Office of the Chairman, ACE Limited.

The ACE Group is a global leader in insurance and reinsurance serving a diverse group of clients. Headed by ACE Limited, a component of the S&P 500 stock index, the ACE Group conducts its business on a worldwide basis with operating subsidiaries in more than 50 countries. 

ACE Agribusiness appoints Allen Financial Insurance Group as national agribusiness general agent.

PHOENIX — (Press Release) — January 4, 2011 — ACE Agribusiness has appointed Allen Financial Insurance Group as a national general agent to market it’s agribusiness insurance products and services.  Founded in 1971 and based in Phoenix, Arizona, Allen Financial is best known in the agribusiness community for it’s equine insurance subsidiary The Equestrian Group.  The Equestrian Group writes policies covering horses, farm owners, trainers, riding instructors, riding clubs,  equestrian facilities and special events.  Brent Allen, President of Allen Financial stated “this is a major strategic alliance for both companies.  The ACE premium product line combined with Allen Financial’s underwriting and marketing background will create one of the best agribusiness delivery systems in the United States”.

About ACE Agribusiness

ACE Agribusiness represents rural America and is focused on property and casualty offerings that provide large commercial agricultural coverage (for manufacturers, processors and distributors) and farm and ranch property risk coverage. We believe in delivering a focused approach to the rural marketplace and will continue to expand in this segment as we offer additional products to our agents and insureds.  ACE Agribusiness is part of the ACE Group Agriculture division (ACE Agriculture).

 

Allen Financial Insurance Group & CapSpecialty Insurance announce Tattoo and Body Piercing insurance program, December 18, 2009

Phoenix, AZ  (Press Release) – December 18, 2009

Allen Financial Insurance Group, a national insurance broker and program administrator, announced today that they have contracted with Capitol Specialty Insurance Corporation to market a national Tattoo & Body Piercing insurance program.  The Ultra Tattoo & Body Piercing program will be underwritten and marketed through the Phoenix office of AFIG and program details can be found on their website www.eqgroupcom.

Brent Allen, President of Allen Financial said  “after conducting extensive interviews and market research we discovered an industry need for a more comprehensive insurance program.  We are very pleased to offer this new product that represents a major step forward in coverage for tattoo and piercing studios”.

About Allen Financial Insurance Group.
Allen Financial Insurance Group is the one of nation’s largest and fastest growing underwriters of Equestrian, Agribusiness, Entertainment and Recreation insurance products and services.  AFIG is widely know for it’s specialty underwriting division The Equestrian Group that has provided equestrian insurance products and services through it’s national network of insurance producers since 1971.  As a general agent for Travelers, Assurant Group. Capitol and Philadelphia gInsurance, Allen Financial offers real-time, underwritten quotes to its national network of retail insurance agencies.  AFIG can also service the needs of agents and brokers with several non-admitted specialty markets.  For more information, visit www.eqgroup.com.

About Capitol Insurance Group

Capitol Insurance Group, Capitol Specialty Insurance Corporation, Capitol Indemnity Corporation and Platte River Insurance Company have all obtained an A (“Excellent”) rating from AM Best.

All Capitol companies are subsidiaries of Alleghany Insurance Holdings, LLC, whose parent company, Alleghany Corporation is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange

Best Affirms Ratings of Assurant and Its Subsidiaries; Several Upgraded

National News – November 20, 2009

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength ratings (FSR) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of the P/C and life/health insurance subsidiaries of Assurant, Inc. Best also affirmed the ICR of “bbb” and debt ratings of Assurant.

At the same time Best upgraded the FSR to ‘A’ (Excellent) from ‘A’ (Excellent) and ICRs to “a” from “a-” for four of Assurant’s P/C subsidiaries: American Reliable Insurance Company (ARIC) (Scottsdale, AZ), Voyager Indemnity Insurance Company (VIIC) (Atlanta, GA), Reliable Lloyds Insurance Company (RLIC) (Austin, TX) and Caribbean American Property Insurance Company (CAPIC) (San Juan, PR). The outlook for all of these ratings is stable.

“Assurant’s ratings recognize the organization’s diverse business mix, established presence in numerous niche markets, very good operating results and appropriate overall capitalization,” best explained. As of September 30, 2009, Assurant’s unadjusted debt-to-capital and debt-to-tangible capital ratios were 16.7 percent and 20.2 percent, respectively, while maintaining a fixed interest coverage ratio at over 10 times.

Source: A.M. Best – www.ambest.com

Allen Financial Insurance Group announces national agreement with Philadelphia Insurance Companies for Special Event Program.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ, (Press Release)–Friday August 15, 2008

Philadelphia Insurance Company has appointed Allen Financial Insurance Group as a national general agent to market entertainment and special event products and services throughout the United States.  Founded in 1971 and based in Phoenix, Arizona, Allen Financial is best known in the entertainment industry for film production, special events and sports insurance programs.  AFIG Entertainment and Philadelphia will write special event policies covering the spectrum of activities from weddings to rock concerts.  Brent Allen, President of Allen Financial stated “This new partnership will allow us to offer clients a superior product with broader coverage on an admitted basis throughout the United States.  Over the years we have witnessed Philadelphia’s ingenuity and commitment to the entertainment and recreation community and are extremely proud of this new relationship”.

About Allen Financial Insurance Group.
Allen Financial Insurance Group is the one of nation’s largest and fastest growing underwriters of Equestrian, Agribusiness, Entertainment and Recreation insurance products and services.  AFIG is widely know for it’s specialty underwriting division The Equestrian Group that has provided equestrian insurance products and services through it’s national network of insurance producers since 1971.  As Travelers, Assurant Group and Philadelphia general agent, Allen Financial offers real-time, underwritten quotes to its national network of retail insurance agencies.  AFIG can also service the needs of agents and brokers with several non-admitted specialty markets.  For more information, visit www.eqgroup.com.

About Philadelphia Insurance Co

In operation since 1962, PHLY designs, markets, and underwrites commercial property/casualty and professional liability insurance products incorporating value added coverage and services for select industries. The Company, whose commercial lines insurance subsidiaries are rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best Company and A1 for insurance financial strength by Moody’s Investors Services, is nationally recognized as a member of Ward’s Top 50, Forbes’ Platinum 400 list of America’s Best Big Companies and Forbes’ 100 Best Mid-Cap Stocks in America. The organization has 47 offices strategically located across the United States to provide superior service.

AFIG Teams Up With IMMS

 

SCOTTSDALE, AZ, (Press Release)–Monday August 16, 2004–Allen Financial Insurance Group (AFIG) today announced that they have joined forces with Insurance Marketing & Management Services (IMMS) – the industry’s leading provider of marketing and management information to insurance professionals.  AFIG will provide IMMS agents with agribusiness and equestrian insurance products through internationally known insurers such as St Paul Travelers and the Assurant Group.  Brent Allen, President of Allen Financial stated “I am  very enthusiastic about this new marketing partnership.  AFIG and IMMS  have both been serving the independent agent for over twenty years.  Now our agents and underwriters can form an unbeatable insurance team offering farm/ranch and equestrian clients some of the highest quality products available”.

IMMS’s 4,000 independent agents and brokers will automatically become part of the AFIG Preferred Producer program giving them automated underwriting tools and a streamlined process for conducting their insurance transactions with both consumers and carriers.  The AFIG website portal provides agents quick and easy access to company information, underwriting forms, risk management guidelines and an overview of its custom insurance solutions at www.eqgroup.com

About Insurance Marketing Management Services

IMMS is headquartered in Los Angeles, and provides some 200 products, services, and publications to insurance professionals throughout the United States and Canada

About Allen Financial Insurance Group.

Allen Financial Insurance Group is the one of nation’s largest and fastest growing underwriters of farm, ranch, agribusiness and equestrian insurance products and services.  AFIG is widely know for it’s specialty underwriting division The Equestrian Group that has provided equestrian insurance products and services through it’s national network of insurance producers since 1971.  As a St Paul Travelers and Assurant Group MGA, Allen Financial offers real-time, underwritten quotes to its national network of retail insurance agencies.  AFIG can also service the needs of agents and brokers with several non-admitted specialty markets

American Reliable appoints Allen Financial as national MGA

SCOTTSDALE, AZ, (Press Release)–Wednesday December 15, 2003–American Reliable Insurance Company, a member of the the Assurant Group has appointed Allen Financial Insurance Group as a national general agent to market their agribusiness insurance products and services throughout the United States.  Founded in 1971 and based in Phoenix, Arizona, Allen Financial is best known in the agribusiness community for it’s equine insurance subsidiary The Equestrian Group.  The Equestrian Group writes policies covering horses, farm owners, trainers, riding instructors, riding clubs,  equestrian facilities and special events.  Brent Allen, President of Allen Financial stated “This new partnership will allow us to offer clients a broader scope of agribusiness products and services on a national scale.  Over the years we have witnessed American Reliable’s ingenuity and commitment to the farm community and are extremely proud of this new relationship”.

About American Reliable
American Reliable and American Bankers Insurance of Florida are part of Assurant Solutions, a leading provider of specialty risk management products and services throughout North America, the Carribean, South America and part of Europe.  American Reliable has experience continued growth of assets and premium for over 50 years.  The Company was acquired by American Bankers of Florida in 1984.  Fortis, Inc. (now Assurant) acquired purchased ABIG in 1999 who combined ABIG with other subsidiaries and operates as Assurant, Inc. formed through a 2 billion dollar public offering on the New York Stock Exchange

Zurich North America Small Business Introduces Business Finance Center

SCHAUMBURG, IL, October 21, 2002 — Zurich North America Small Business (ZSB), today announced the introduction of the Business Finance Center (BFC), a customized online commercial lending marketplace for small business loans, commercial real estate loans and equipment lease financing. Provided through a strategic alliance with a leading provider of financing solutions on the Internet, the BFC is available to customers exclusively by referral from ZSB’s national network of independent insurance agents.

The BFC is a revenue-generating customer service tool that enables ZSB’s agents to provide all of their commercial customers with access to commercial financing from multiple lenders through a single application. Financing from $5,000 up to $500 million is available through the BFC.

“The Business Finance Center is set up as a win-win opportunity for both insurance agents and their customers,” said Bob Coppersmith, vice president of financial services products for Zurich North America Small Business. “Agents can refer their commercial customers from either the Business Finance Center information page or from a link added to the agency’s own web site. Once a referral is made, the customer can then submit a single financing request to multiple lenders right from their desktop computer.  The BFC gives their customers easy online access to competitive rates and terms and the agencies an opportunity to earn more income while providing customers with a valued service.”

Using the Business Finance Center, businesses can access more than 200 lenders, including banks, Wall Street firms, insurance companies, finance companies, other financial institutions and private investors. Loan applicants remain anonymous throughout the entire application process, and only winning lenders receive customer contact information. In addition, the Business Finance Center allows applicants to specify loan preferences and control certain aspects of the process, including the proposal deadline and whether a lender may view proposals from other lenders

SAFECO’S new auto Product driving substantial new business growth

SEATTLE — (June 4, 2002) — One month after launching its new auto insurance product, SAFECO (Nasdaq: SAFC) is seeing the results it expected: a substantial increase in new business. The new product more than doubles SAFECO’s auto market reach and will help the company achieve the long-term goal of becoming a top-five national writer of auto insurance.

The new product debuted in Arizona, Utah and South Carolina in April. Agents there have offered SAFECO auto insurance quotes to their customers three times more often than before its introduction, with new-policy sales up over 40 percent in each state.

On May 30, SAFECO launched the new product in five additional states: Connecticut, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho and Wisconsin. The rollout will continue in several more states each month until the product is launched in all 44 states where SAFECO does business.

“This is a bold statement of SAFECO’s focus on growth and profitability,” noted SAFECO Personal Lines President Mike LaRocco . “Early agent feedback on the new product is very encouraging. We believe our vision of providing the market a blend of new products, new technology and our independent agents’ skill in serving customers gives us a distinct advantage.

“My first priority when I came to SAFECO last year was to make sure we offered the best products in the industry, backed by our reputation for quality customer service,” LaRocco said. “The launch of the new auto product is proof that we are on the road to fulfilling that promise. This puts us in the right market position for robust growth in business and revenues.”

The new auto product brings together three markets – preferred, standard and non-standard – into one model and thereby expands SAFECO’s market reach from 40 to 95 percent. This marks the first time the company has offered non-standard auto insurance under the SAFECO brand.

SAFECO, in business since 1923, is a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle that sells insurance and related financial products through more than 17,000 independent agents and financial advisors.

 

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