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Excessive cost of public liability insurance for choirs

I understand that on this forum most of the conductors seem to be associated with schools, universities and churches, so this issue may be one that is covered by your admin.  
But for those of you who have to arrange and pay for your own public liability insurance, are you struck by how expensive it is?
The insurance I pay is about half of what I pay for my car insurance - and yet it's way more likely that my car will cause damage than choir directing and singing.      In addition,  the venues where we sing - rehearsal and public places - are also covered by insurance which means that the insurance companies are receiving multiple premiums for the same places.
Have you ever heard of a choir being sued?   
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on June 22, 2013 6:16pm
Jane, the fact that you're calling it "public" liability makes me think you're in England or Australia. That's a very different legal environment than the US. However, I was in the insurance business for a few years and dealt with quite a bit of international coverage.
I would never, under any circumstances, agree to join a board of directors for any kind of non-profit organization that did not have good general liability AND adequate Directors and Officers liability insurance. There aren't that many suits that can pierce the non-profit corporation shield in the US (and protections in the UK are even better), but when they do, you're in a world of hurt. Even the most frivolous lawsuits here can cost $30 to $50,000 to get thrown out of court.
Liability insurance is a tough product because it's something you're going to pay for every year and hopefully never use. But you really do need to buy it!
on June 22, 2013 11:09pm
Yes, I'm in Australia.  The whole name of my policy is called "Public & Products Liability and Professional Liability" and yes, I've bought it year after year.    What is it called in the USA?     I lived in California for years and think that I just had umbrella insurance on top of home insurance which covered my music business.  
on June 24, 2013 6:08am
Hi, Jane. Your personal umbrella policy dealt with personal liability, which is a completely different thing, so let's set that aside.
It sounds like you have a policy that combines both general (public) liability and executive protection. That's good. We have a few carriers in this country writing similar products. Here's a quick liability insurance 101.
  • General Liability, called Public liability in many countries covers actual, physical damage or injury caused to someone due to your negligence or, for that matter, just on your watch. It's to cover losses that are accidental in nature. This type of coverage has two different sections in itself: Bodily Injury Liabillity and Products Liability. Products deals with somebody being injured by the product that you're manufacturing because it is faulty or dangerous; obviously, very little bearing on your organization, and I only mention it because it's listed separately in your policy's title. Bodily injury is important for choirs though, as this is what our performing venues will often require. The obvious example here: An audience member trips over one of your microphone cables on her way in to the concert and breaks her hip. Your performing venue is requiring that they are shown as an "additional insured" on your policy because they are also going to be named on that lawsuit - Keep in mind that when we sue somebody, we start by naming that person and everybody he knows in the suit, then ultimately whittle it down to those culpable (or with the deepest pockets). Another example here would be one of your choristers falling off the risers and injuring himself during a rehearsal or performance. Problem is that many policies will exclude bodily injury for participatns or volunteers. If a tough risk to underwrite; stages are dangerous places. If you are looking at a policy that offers that, even for an extra charge, it's worth considering.
  • The second coverage that your policy appears to cover (based solely on its title) is Professional Liability." This is closely related to general liability, but covers individual teachers, directors, etc. in their personal breach of professional duty which led to the above. There are some broader ramifications here, but this is basically what it is. In the U.S., general liability forms generally cover both the organization and its employees and members, so this type of coverage is only necessary in specialized situations.
  • The third thing I'd bring up is Directors & Officers Liability. It is often overlooked, even by some insurance agents, but no organization should ever be without it. This insurance protects and indemnifies your board against lawsuits related to the overall management of the organization, rather than direct physical harm. The reason this coverage is SO important is that many of these lawsuits can pierce the corporate shield and actually put the personal assets of your board members at risk - even in a nonprofit organization. When I used to underwrite this type of coverage, I'd explain it to clients as Dumb Decision insurance. In the nonprofit sector, most of the suits we'd deal with in this arena were employment-related. BUT REMEMBER that when I say "employment," I'm not just talking about paid employees being wrongfully terminated or something. What about somebody who auditioned for the choir and didn't make it suing on the grounds that you didn't accept him because he is (fill in the blank...).
    Another type of claim is one for mismanagement of the organization. We had a local community theater organization that folded for lack of funds (sound familiar?) and were sued by a former participant claiming that the board had mismanaged the organizations funds by paying for such frivilous things as professional music directors. (And yes, you're right. The guy suing used to be the music director for the shows and was bitter about being ousted. And the case was thrown out LONG before it went to court. And that's why it ONLY cost us about $20,000 to defend - money which would otherwise have come out of the board members' pockets.)
    The last type of claim I've dealt with in this arena I hate talking about but will. This is the situation a children's choir whose director who is accused of improper contact with a chorister. Now the director's end of that is dealt with in the criminal system and not the civil one, but the inevitable string of lawsuits that follow are against the organization and its board for having hired and inadequately supervised this employee. Just as in BOTH of the cases listed above, this is a lawsuit that can pierce the nonprofit corporation shield. If the court finds that the organization was negligent, the board members are PERSONALY responsible for the settlement. Chaptering the organization will not make it go away. Even if the organization is ultimately exonerated, these cases almost always go to court, so defense costs are almost guaranteed to reach six figures. And if the choir doesn't have enough in its bank account to cover that, the board members must.
So that's what you're purchasing, and I say again IT IS absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, what makes it so important is the same thing that makes it so expensive: We love to sue each other; it's the American way! And as with all things economically related, the litigiousness of our society means that Australians have to pay more for insurance. When the U.S. sneezes, the world catches a cold.... 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 23, 2013 1:08pm
Jane, hi
I have not heard of a choir being sued, but my small 24 member adult comm. choir carries 2 Million $ liability.
I am now researaching another provider for this coming year.
I have never had a suit in 40 years.
I agree about price increase being ridiculous.
Carolyn Eynon
on June 24, 2013 3:34am
We have a fairly new 9-member vocal ensemble but we do spend the money on $1, 000, 000 general liability insurance. It is so worth it. We also buy volunteer accident insurance to cover our members for rehearsals and performances.


on June 24, 2013 4:41am
Hi Jane,
Will probably cost about $450
on June 24, 2013 2:07pm
Thanks for the heads-up on Directors and Officers Liability, Tom.   Very alarming to hear that board members can have their personal assets at stake without it.
Thanks Andrew for the link.
on June 30, 2013 7:49am
Yes - a choir I was involved in was sued by one of it's members, after he fell into an uncovered orchestra pit at the end of a concert.
(I'm also in Australia)
on July 1, 2013 11:26am
This company sells liability insurance for single events for those venues that require it:
For the Saratoga Choral Festival I have a $2,000,000 policy which is required by our facility, and the cost from K & K Insurance is $385. for choral concerts with no alchohol being served and a few other caveates. The website has free quotes.
Andrea Goodman
Saratoga Choral Festival
on July 3, 2013 3:36am
Being Australian - are you taking out your own public liability insurance, or is your insurance through ANCA?
If the former, then joining ANCA and signing up to their insurance will cost you considerably less.
on July 3, 2013 1:38pm
Simon - yes, I joined ANCA many years ago and have always carried insurance, but not through ANCA because up to now I've been able to get lower premiums elsewhere.    The issue that I was grumbling about is that even the lowest premiums are too high compared to the risk, and that every venue we ever rehearse and perform also carries insurance for the exact same activity. 
on July 4, 2013 2:54am
"... every venue we ever rehearse and perform also carries insurance for the exact same activity."
That's actually a very powerful reason for you to need insurance too. If something bad happens, then the venue's insurer will pay out; but the insurer will look for some way to recover the money. If they can find a way to argue that it was your fault and not the venue's fault, and if they estimate that you've got enough money to be worth their trouble, then they'll pursue you. Being an insurer with deep pockets, they can afford to go to court with a doubtful case which might be too speculative for the injured individual or an uninsured venue to risk.
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