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Regan v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co.

August 17, 2007


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Peter Flynn, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard

Published opinion

Plaintiff Brendan Regan brought this action against defendant Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company seeking a declaratory judgment that personal injuries he sustained while on a student baseball trip to Florida were covered by a policy issued by defendant. Plaintiff and defendant each filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court entered an order granting plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and an order denying defendant's motion for summary judgment. Defendant now appeals those two orders. We affirm.


The pleadings, motions, and attached exhibits establish the following facts. In March 2002, plaintiff, a student at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and a member of the St. Ambrose baseball team, went to Florida with the team to participate in a baseball tournament called the Homestead Challenge. On March 13, 2002, the team's only scheduled "day off" during the tournament, plaintiff sustained a spinal cord injury when he dove into a wave and struck the ocean floor at a beach adjacent to the hotel where the team was staying.

At the time of the accident, St. Ambrose was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). As a member, St. Ambrose was required by the NAIA bylaws to be enrolled in the NAIA catastrophic athletic injury insurance program under a policy issued by defendant.

The policy states in part that defendant will insure student athletes in all sanctioned and officially recognized intercollegiate sports (Class I) and pay benefits as follows:

"Coverage is provided for participation in scheduled games, supervised practice sessions and during authorized group or team travel that is paid for or reimbursed by the Sponsoring Organization in connection with such games or practice sessions."

The policy defines "covered travel" as follows:

" 'Covered Travel' means team or group travel by participants in a Covered Event:

(a) directly to or from a Covered Event;

(b) authorized and paid for or reimbursed by the Sponsoring Organization; and

(c) supervised by staff members or a designated representative of the Sponsoring Organization.

Covered Travel begins with departing from the meeting place for such travel and ends upon the release of the Insured from the Sponsoring Organization's supervision."

The trip to Florida for the baseball tournament was authorized by St. Ambrose and paid for with money from the university athletic department fund and team fundraising activities. Each player on the team was required to pay for the cost of his airfare, hotel, and food during the trip. Plaintiff testified in his deposition that in order to raise money to cover these costs, he and his teammates sought and received pledges from sponsors based upon the number of miles they ran during conditioning. The money raised by the players in turn went into a fund which Coach James Callahan controlled and used to pay for the team's airfare as well as hotel and meal expenses during the trip. St. Ambrose paid for the players' transportation to and from Midway airport in Chicago and the airport in Miami as well as to and from baseball games scheduled during the tournament in Florida. The university also paid the cost of entering the tournament.

On March 9, 2002, the St. Ambrose baseball team, Coach Callahan, and three assistant coaches met at St. Ambrose's indoor sports arena and boarded a bus that took them to Midway Airport in Chicago. The team and coaches then flew to Miami; upon their arrival, they were taken in vans to the Comfort Inn Hotel in Miami Beach. Coach Callahan chose the Comfort Inn because it was affordable and in a safe area. The St. Ambrose baseball team was scheduled to play at the Homestead Challenge in Homestead, Florida, on March 10, 11, 12, and 14-17 of 2002. No baseball games or practice sessions were scheduled for March 13, 2002, which was the team's "day off" from the tournament.

Coach Callahan testified in his deposition regarding rules that members of the team were required to follow while in Miami. Those rules provided, inter alia, that players were to go everywhere as a group. If a player wanted to go anywhere on his own, he had to have a "buddy"; even with a buddy, players had to first receive permission from one of the coaches before leaving the group. Players were prohibited from consuming alcohol less than 48 hours before any scheduled game and were prohibited from having overnight guests in their hotel rooms. If a player failed to follow ...

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