Submitted: February 12, 2019
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - Jefferson City
SMITH, Chief Judge, BENTON and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
attending Bible camp, a child fell from a 50-foot-high
zipline. The parties dispute who potentially bears financial
responsibility for her injuries. On one side is the
conference center that operated the zipline. On the other is
the Bible camp's insurer. We conclude that, under the
plain language of the insurance policy, the insurer is not
responsible for the conference center's alleged
Baptist Conference Center is located on the shores of
Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks. For many years, Student
Life, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, has
used Windermere to host its camps. According to their
contract, Student Life rents group lodging and conference
rooms from Windermere. In return, campers have access to
Windermere's common spaces and some of its recreational
areas, including the swimming pool, miniature-golf course,
and hiking trails. But a few recreational areas-including
"the Edge," Windermere's ropes and zipline
course-are not freely available to campers. Rather, to access
the Edge, campers must make separate arrangements and pay an
Richards and her youth group attended a Student Life Bible
camp. During their free time one afternoon, they arranged to
use the Edge. In addition to scheduling a specific time with
Windermere and paying the entrance fee, the campers had to
submit a permission and release form signed by a parent.
Midway through the course, a Windermere employee forgot to
reconnect Karlee's harness to the zipline's tether,
and she fell 50 feet to the ground.
tragic accident led to extensive litigation between
Windermere and the Richards family. Eventually, Windermere
asked Student Life's insurer, Great American Alliance
Insurance Company, to indemnify it as an additional insured
under Student Life's general-liability insurance policy.
Great American refused on the ground that the accident did
not "ar[ise] out of the . . . use of . . . premises
leased" to Student Life.
American then filed a separate declaratory-judgment action in
federal district court against, as relevant here, Windermere,
Karlee, and Karlee's father. After both sides moved for
summary judgment, the court ruled that Windermere was covered
by Student Life's policy. Great American appeals this
decision, which we review de novo. See United Fire &
Cas. Co. v. Titan Contractors Serv., Inc., 751 F.3d 880,
883 (8th Cir. 2014).
Life's insurance policy covered Windermere as an
additional insured only if its "liability ar[ose] out of
the ownership, maintenance[, ] or use of that portion of the
premises leased to [Student Life]." The crucial
question, then, is whether Karlee's zipline accident
"ar[ose] out of" the use of premises that
Windermere "leased to" Student Life. Neither phrase
is defined in the policy, so we give each the "ordinary
meaning . . . that the average layperson would reasonably
understand." Martin v. U.S. Fid. & Guar.
Co., 996 S.W.2d 506, 508 (Mo. banc 1999) (citation
common understanding of a "lease" is a
"contract by which one conveys" property for a
certain period of time "for a specified rent or
compensation." Webster's Third New International
Dictionary 1286 (2002). Combining this definition with
the specific terms of the policy, the only
"premises" Windermere "conveyed" to
Student Life were the conference rooms and the lodging
specified in the contract. Their contract did not mention any
other areas, much less give Student Life a "right [to]
exclusive possession" of them, which is "the
hallmark of a lease." Kan. City Area Transp. Auth.
v. Ashley, 485 S.W.2d 641, 645 (Mo.Ct.App. 1972);
see also Kimack v. Adams, 930 S.W.2d 505, 507
(Mo.Ct.App. 1996) (defining a lease as a "contract . . .
for exclusive possession of [property] for a
determinate period" (emphasis added) (citation
Edge was no exception. It was off-limits to any campers who
did not make special arrangements in advance, including
Karlee and her youth group. To be sure, campers could get
right up to the security fence surrounding the Edge. But the
area itself was at all times under the control of
Windermere's employees. Student Life, in other words, ...