On December 18th of last year, a New York arbitrator ordered Ex-Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin to pay $5 million in damages to Donald Trump who owns the Miss Universe Organization which includes the Miss USA pageant. Earlier in the year, Trump sued Ms. Monnin for defamation on behalf of the Miss Universe Organization after she claimed the Miss USA pageant outcome was rigged on both Facebook and NBC’s “Today” show.
According to the arbitrator, Theodore Katz, Ms. Monnin’s allegations were false, harmful and malicious resulting in the loss of a $5 million fee from a potential 2013 sponsor of the Miss USA pageant. In a follow up article by Robert Gearty of the New York Daily News on February 8th, Ms. Monnin is currently seeking leniency from a judge stating the arbitrator’s ruling would financially devastate her.
What does this have to do with insurance you might ask? More than you realize. Every renter’s, condo and home policy we write for our clients in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, and the rest of Texas, includes personal liability coverage. This coverage is designed to protect the renter or home owner in the event they are sued, usually for something that happens on their property; a visitor falls and breaks their hip, a pet gets out and bites a neighbor, etc.
The personal liability coverage on a renter or home owner policy does not however protect the insured in the event they are sued for defamation or slander. Only an umbrella policy does that. Umbrella policies add to the base liability coverage of a car, renter, condo or home policy as well as add additional coverage, including coverage for defamation and slander.
This incident serves as a great reminder for all of us. While most of us may never sit on the set of the “Today” show and be interviewed, we are all on Facebook, Pinterest, Google +, or Linkedin.
- What we write is truly not private.
- The line separating complaining and criticizing versus defamation and slander is thin.
Be careful what you write and consider an umbrella policy which typically costs between $200 and $400 a year for most people. That’s a whole lot less than one hour in attorney fees. Have a question or comment? Share them with us on our Facebook and Google + pages or in the comments section of our blog. I’d love to hear from you.