A 2nd District Appellate panel has found that Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. should foot the bill for the legal costs associated with defending Time Warner Inc. in the case involving a man killed after appearing on "The Jenny Jones Show."
The ruling means that unless it appeals to the state Supreme Court, Travelers may not be reimbursed for the $2.8 million defense of Time Warner in a civil action that resulted in a $29 million jury verdict, later overturned, against the media giant.
The case stemmed from the murder of Scott Amedure, who revealed a crush on his neighbor, Jonathan Schmitz, in a 1995 episode of the talk show. Schmitz, who says he is heterosexual, killed Amedure three days later.
Schmitz was convicted of second degree murder in 1999 and is serving a 25- to 50-year prison sentence.
The civil case was brought that year by Amedure's family, which argued that Time Warner was negligent in encouraging Amedure to reveal his crush to a man who had not been tested for mental illness before appearing on the show.
A Michigan jury agreed, awarding more than $29 million in damages. The company appealed, and in 2002 a Michigan appellate court reversed the verdict. The Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
The ruling over responsibility for the legal fees incurred in the civil defense came in a case brought by Continental Casualty Co., which issued Time Warner's entertainment risk policy. It sued Travelers Casualty in 2001 seeking a ruling that Continental had no obligation to pay legal costs.
Travelers, which issued Time Warner's general liability policy, had been seeking reimbursement for defense costs in the civil case.
Most production companies have both types of insurance, said Neil Selman, a partner at Selman Breitman LLP representing Continental, which is owned by CNA Financial Corp. Bodily injury, covered by a general liability policy, typically would include an injury from a fouled stunt or an unintentional explosion during filming, he said.
"This was a bodily injury case," he said. "Our policy covered creative risks involved in the production of entertainment matter; for instance, defamation, infringement, invasion of privacy, things like that."
Travelers' attorney, Michael Robinson, a partner at Anderson McPharlin & Conners LLP, did not return calls.
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