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Florida capital opts for free speech over liability insurance rule

Sat Apr 7th, 2012 on     Insurance Claims,    

There are all sorts of laws that apply to parades, demonstrations and marches. Generally, if a group wants to use city streets, the city must first give them permission. Before they grant permission, though, city governments ask for certain reassurances from the organizers. Key among those is that the sponsoring organization has liability insurance to cover the event.

The shooting last month of Florida teen Trayvon Martin inspired marches around the state. One group, the National Christian League of Councils, planned a march on the Capitol in Tallahassee to protest the “stand your ground” law invoked by the shooter to justify his actions. The NCLC, however, ran into some trouble.

The city of Tallahassee requires a $1 million liability policy for events like the one planned by the NCLC. The organization could not find an insurance company willing to cover the march — 12 insurers said no. It was simply too controversial a subject and too much of a security risk for them to take on. The only option left was to self-insure.

Self-insuring is tricky for a nonprofit. Many nonprofits simply don’t have the financial wherewithal to self-insure. The NCLC would have to set aside enough money to cover any damages, but the march posed such an enormous risk that big-name insurance companies wouldn’t take it on.

The city finally waived the insurance requirement. City officials reasoned that barring the NCLC from marching would be denying the marchers their First Amendment rights to free speech. The waiver did not take the NCLC off the hook in the event of a claim, though; the city merely allowed the march to go forward without proof of insurance.

About 100 people marched peacefully to the Capitol. The march had been postponed from an earlier date while the insurance issue was settled. The NCLC settled on April 4 for the rescheduled march, because it was the 44th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Trayvon Martin March to Happen After Tallahassee Waives Insurance Requirement,” Michael Adams, April 4, 2012

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