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Argyle Chair
Charles Rennie Macintosh

Lack of Insurance Closes Shows
by Bob Brooke


Kimberton Antique ShowShow promoter Sally Driscoll had to suspend all of her future shows because of lack of liability insurance on the part of her dealers. After doing two shows annually for over 25 years, and more recently adding a third show, the requirement that all of her dealers had to have liability insurance came as a big surprise.

The big problem for Driscoll wasnít getting insurance. She could only obtain promoterís liability insurance if all of her dealers also had business liability insurance. "They didnít want to spend the money getting it since they didnít feel it was necessary," she said.

The policy would have cost her $500 for $1 million which was also the bottom line she needed as the show manager. It would have covered her for nine days a year, plus the show had to be in the same location and the dates had to be the same each year, and she needed proof that all of her dealers had liability insurance.

"Many dealers are under the impression that the show promoterís policy covers them," said Jim Tucker, the director of the Antiques and Collectibles Associations of Davidson, North Carolina. "In most instances, thatís not the case. If a dealer is named in a lawsuit, he would be responsible for obtaining his own lawyer and paying his own judgment."

Representatives of the venue where Driscoll held her shows explained to her that if someone in a show sat on a chair and it broke resulting in a broken leg or arm or a concussion, the person injured would attempt to sue the dealer. If the dealer didn't have insurance, the victim would use the venue. The venue's insurance company didn't think it should have to pay for the injury because if there wasnít an antique show in the building, the person wouldnít have gotten injured. The bottom line was that the venue's insurance company didnít want the liability of Driscoll's 35 dealers. Thus, Driscoll's insurance company refused to cover her unless all of her dealers have liability insurance.

Driscoll also noted that the venue had had a law suit brought up against them for someone falling in their kitchen. "I believe this is what prompted them to tell me I and my dealers had to get insurance," she said. "I think more dealers should be made aware of how important insurance is to them. Youíd be surprised how many dealers donít have any insurance at all."

While Driscoll may have been surprised at the lack of dealer interest in insurance, Allison Steeves, an agent with Steeves, Smith and Associates, Inc., of Monroe, Connecticut, the agency who handles the insurance program for the Professional Show Managerís Association, Inc. (PSMA), wasnít. "The problem is that antique dealers donít look at themselves as business people," she said. "Based on the contracts they sign for their booths, any exposure makes them liable."

The PSMA offers dealers participating in a manager member show a relatively low premium (around $60) for $1 million coverage for that show. An annual policy for the same coverage costs a minimum of $350. But according to Mitch Sorenson, executive director of the association, the insurance program has met with resistance from dealers, who feel there isnít a need.

An alternative to special liability insurance for antique dealers is an excess liability floater added to a dealerís homeownerís personal liability insurance. Dealers John and Judy Parke of Malvern, Pennsylvania, with $2 million in coverage, chose this route. The Parkeís insurance agent, Mary Callahan of Babb, Inc., Insurance Agency in Wayne, Pennsylvania, said the Parkes already had $1 million in liability through their homeowners policy and were able, for an additional $100 premium, to add a second million through Chubb & Co.ís Excess Liability floater. "This covers them anywhere in the world that they set up to sell antiques," said Callahan. "This type of floater is especially good for those who sell only at shows on a part-time basis. Most homeownerís policies today offer some type of small business exposure [liability] because so many people have businesses in the home. But every state is different."

Tucker noted that the most common liability claims are slip and falls. "Though these have proven to be the most serious claims, we have had dealers knock down other dealers displays, customers cut by glass from display cabinets and pictures blowing of the wall, light fixtures and radios shorting out and starting fires, furniture collapsing or falling on customers and many other things you never expect to happen."

Tucker tells dealers that liability coverage is the most important one to have. "A dealer can be sued for anything and for any amount," he added. "Even if a dealer ultimately isnít held responsible, there can be huge legal fees. But if a dealer is held libel for a serious injury, it could cost him his house and/or every thing he owns, not just his business."

How much liability coverage does a dealer need? "No matter how much or how little dealers do in their business, they need liability coverage," said Tucker. "It only takes one person, one slip and fall." While some brokers recommend that a dealerís coverage match that of the largest court award for a case relevant to the antique business, others base recommendations on a dealerís assets. One million dollars is usually a minimum.

Moreover, unlike property, which has a fixed value, liability claims donít have any limitations. In this lawsuit-crazed society, the sky could indeed be the limit. "Having insurance is a cost of doing business," said Steeves. "When a dealer does a show, their booth becomes their store."

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