Insurer Sued Over 80th Birthday Event Cancellation at Sting’s Estate in Italy

By Insurance Journal staff | September 28, 2023

A Pennsylvania firm that organized a three-day musical festival for its owner’s 80th birthday at the Italian residence of musician Sting is suing its insurer seeking payment under an event cancellation policy.

Wingstone Investment Holdings and its sole owner Loralee West sued Houston Casualty Co. claiming the insurer owes it payment because the birthday festival’s final two days had to be cancelled after a severe thunderstorm damaged the venue and posed a danger to guests and performers.

Wingstone claims HCC failed to pay its claim or even make a coverage determination before the time window for bringing suit was to close.

The event, dubbed Tuscany 2022, was to take place July 6-8, 2022, at Il Palagio, the estate of the musician Sting and his wife located south of Florence, Italy. Wingstone booked a vocal group to perform on the first night of the three-day event. Wingstone booked Sting, singer Shaggy and the band The Last Bandoleros to perform on the second night and musicians Andrea Bocelli, Matteo Bocelli, Andrea Griminelli, Ilaria Dela Bidia and supporting musicians to perform on the third night. Wingstone contracted with a production company to set up outdoor stages, including audio and lighting equipment.

On the second night, Sting and Shaggy took the stage and began performing. Moments into the first song a severe thunderstorm plowed into the venue without warning. Lightning appeared, winds rose, branches and pine needles began falling from trees and it began to rain heavily. According to the complaint, Sting stopped the show and announced: “For everyone’s safety, we have to get in right now. The lightning’s coming.”

Wingstone maintains that the storm posed a “serious threat to the safety” of the attendees who ended up taking shelter in Sting’s private residence near the stage. The wind and lightning continued for approximately 45 minutes. Wind gusts reportedly reached 45 miles per hour. The complaint says the storm physically damaged the venue, rendering it unusable for performances. Wingstone claims the storm also felled trees, one of which workers had to chop apart to allow guests to exit the property.

The complaint alleges that because the “physical damage that the storm caused left the venue unusable” for performances, the remainder of the performances on July 7 and July 8 could not proceed.

Wingstone claims it incurred approximately $2.8 million in losses due to the storm and filed a claim with HCC under the event cancellation policy.

The complaint further discloses that West tested positive for Covid-19 during the afternoon of the third day of the event. However, the complaint does not indicate the impact of this Covid-19 diagnosis or the policy’s communicable disease exclusion.

The event cancellation policy has a limit of almost $4.6 million, for which Wingstone paid a premium of $45,825. The policy has no deductible. The policy covers losses due to “adverse weather” that involved conditions that “posed a serious threat to the safety” of those individuals attending or setting-up the insured event, or made it “physically impossible to use the venue” due to physical damage of the venue or complete inaccessibility to the venue. Coverage “does not apply to the cancellation, abandonment, curtailment, interruption, postponement, or relocation to the individual activities that form part of the entire insured event.”

In response to HCC’s requests, Wingstone says it provided HCC with more than 500 documents in February and March 2023 and, in April 2023, West gave an examination under oath on behalf of Wingstone.

The policy provides that any claim suit or action must be commenced within 12 months after the loss occurs. As the 12-month deadline drew near, Wingstone says it asked HCC when it could expect a decision on its claim. According to the complaint, HCC indicated that it would not be able to make a decision within the 12-month period. Thus, Wingstone and HCC agreed to extend the deadline until October 21, 2023.

Wingstone filed suit in federal court in Pennsylvania against HCC on September 22, maintaining that as of this date, HCC has not paid its claim and has not communicated what decision, if any, it has reached with respect to Wingstone’s claim.

Wingstone is asking the court to declare that the insurer must pay for its losses, along with interest, and punitive damages.

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