Fore­warned, fore­armed

The Compass - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic Re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at

At the Read By The Sea fes­ti­val in River John, N.S., last July, the big­gest dan­ger was that one of the six Cana­dian writ­ers might fall off the slightly wob­bly stairs lead­ing up to the hay­wagon stage.

The au­di­ence, in the hun­dreds, was stretched out on blan­kets on the grass, in chairs un­der mar­quees, and the July sun was beat­ing down on the open field with the kind of sum­mer cloud­less heat that warms the hearts of the or­ga­niz­ers.

But even or­ga­niz­ing some­thing as straight­for­ward as a one-day open-air fes­ti­val, the L-word comes up — li­a­bil­ity.

The or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee has talked about it, and since they’re on a field be­hind (and be­long­ing to) the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion, they’ve found out their event is un­der the Le­gion’s cov­er­age. But the worry’s far from only theirs. On New­found­land’s Burin Penin­sula last week, 18 par­tic­i­pants were at the Piper’s Frith writ­ing re­treat at Kil­mory Re­sort: it’s an in­ten­sive week with writ­ers, men­tors and the fall colours of Swift Cur­rent.

As a re­sort, Kil­mory has its own li­a­bil­ity in­surance re­quire­ments— but so does the re­treat it­self, cov­er­age found in the tan­gly world of spe­cial event cov­er­age. A pa­rade in P.E.I.? A New Brunswick rugby tour­na­ment? You get the pic­ture.

Try sign­ing up for spe­cial event in­surance and you be­gin to be able to imag­ine the haz­ards just from read­ing the ques­tions: will there be al­co­hol? An in­flat­able bouncy cas­tle? Fire­works? A pet­ting zoo? A pa­rade? Will there be horses in the pa­rade? (If yes, each horse owner is re­quired to pro­vide proof of in­surance.)

Ev­ery tick-mark in a box is another risk, a po­ten­tial higher pre­mium. (Will there be mu­sic? What genre?)

And sure, it’s only sen­si­ble to take pre­cau­tions, es­pe­cially in liti­gious times when law firms put the mil­lions of dol­lars they’ve reaped for per­sonal in­jury clients up on high­way bill­boards as if they’ve made the money just mag­i­cally ap­pear from thin air.

But you have to ask: how did we get here?

And have we for­got­ten that there ac­tu­ally is a point where li­a­bil­ity ends and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity takes over?

One of the big­ger li­a­bil­ity cases in New­found­land right now? A clas­s­ac­tion law­suit over high­way mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing moose, and whether the provin­cial gov­ern­ment should share the blame or take over fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity for the se­ri­ous in­juries and ex­penses crit­i­cally in­jured driv­ers en­dure.

The case hinges on whether the provin­cial gov­ern­ment has done enough to en­sure road safety from the big an­i­mals — a sit­u­a­tion com­pli­cated by the fact that moose aren’t na­tive to the is­land part of the prov­ince, and were ac­tu­ally in­tro­duced by the gov­ern­ment, which is now be­ing sued for what you could call their side-ef­fects. (The gov­ern­ment won Round 1, but the case is be­ing ap­pealed.) What does it all mean? Well, that we have to spend a lot of time wor­ry­ing about what might hap­pen — and who will end up pay­ing. And that in­surance com­pa­nies will make money pretty much all the time, even if you get to buy a bit of peace of mind.

And the hay­wagon stairs in River John? The writ­ers were all warned in ad­vance — and no one fell off. rus­sell.wanger­; his col­umn ap­pears on Tues­days, Thurs­days and Satur­days in TC

Me­dia’s daily pa­pers. Join Rus­sell in dis­cus­sion at www.cb­n­com­ Oct. 31

and 12:30 p.m. (New­found­land Time).

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