Schmitz v. Great American Assurance Co.

A young woman died from injuries she sustained after falling from a portable rock climbing wall at a minor league baseball game. Her parents sued the team's owner, who had an excess insurance policy with Respondent Great American Assurance Company (Great American). To protect himself from additional liability, the team owner entered into an agreement with the parents that limited collection of any judgment to the limits of both primary and excess insurance policies. The trial court entered judgment against the team owner, finding him liable, and awarded $4 million in damages. The parents then brought an equitable garnishment suit to collect against the primary and excess policies. The primary insurers settled for less than their policy limit. However, the parents entered a release of judgment for the full policy limit. The excess insurer, Great American, disputed its obligation to pay under its policy because the primary insurance limit had not been exhausted. The appellate court agreed with Great American, and denied the parents equitable garnishment. The parents appealed, arguing that the excess insurance policy did not require exhaustion before it was obligated to pay. The Supreme Court reviewed the policy and found it had no provisions requiring exhaustion. The Court reversed the appellate court on the exhaustion issue, and affirmed the lower court's decision on all other matters brought on appeal.