Unusual, interesting and downright strange facts from the world of insurance
The insurance industry has become famous for its involvement in some weird and wonderful cases over the years and insuring risk from all walks of life, as Edward Murray discovers.
- Never mind Ugly Betty, what about Expensive Betty? America Ferrera, the star of the hit US television show, now has her smile insured for $10m (£4.9m) thanks to Aquafresh White Trays. The specialist teeth-whitening company bought the insurance for the actress earlier this year as part of a promotion aimed at raising money for the charity Smiles for Success.
- One of the first ever celebrity insurance policies was arranged in the 1920s by silent movie star Ben Turpin. Famed for being cross eyed, he took out a $20,000 policy against his eyes ever uncrossing.
- The first underwriter to insure against the risk of twins was Richard Thornton (1776-1865) who insured against the risk of Queen Victoria having twins as her first born.
- Harvey Lowe, winner of the first World Yo-Yo Contest in 1934, had his hands insured by the Cheerie Yo-Yo Company for $150,000.
- In an interesting twist on the children's song: "Heads, shoulders, knees and toes," chef Egon Ronay insured his taste buds for $400,000, comic actor Ken Dodd insured his teeth for £4m and cricket player Merv Hughes took out a £200,000 policy on his moustache.
- A 24-year-old Thai transvestite performer named Poh was told her breast implants could explode at high altitude if she flew to an appearance in Edinburgh. The implants were therefore insured for $500,000.
- Everyone knows you can get four elephants into a Mini, but just how many can fit into a plane? This was the problem facing Robert Wells, livestock underwriter at XL Insurance, when a client wished to cover the mammoth animals against death during a transatlantic flight back in 2004. The insurance was duly put in place and fortunately all ten elephants completed the journey safely.
- San Francisco's renowned wild parrots were in danger of losing one of their favourite city haunts until the council intervened at the beginning of the year and agreed to insure the diseased cypress trees on which they had been gathering. The trees stood on private land and the owner feared they could collapse, leaving him with a large liability. However, now the council has insured the trees against any damage they may cause, the owner is happy to leave the parrots' perch intact and has planted another couple of trees for the future.
- In Nebraska, 65 new car owners were desperately hoping it would be a white Christmas after a car dealership offered $10,000 to anyone who purchased a car during the month of December and it then snowed on Christmas day. Lloyd's of London accepted the $1.5m risk, which agreed to pay out the prize money if at least four inches of snow fell.
- A lawyer in the US purchased a box of very expensive cigars, taking out insurance to cover them for theft, damage and fire. He then smoked the cigars and put in a claim with his insurance company claiming that they had been lost in a series of small fires. The insurance company refused to pay out on the claim, but after being taken to court paid out $15,000. However, the claimant was then arrested on 24 counts of arson, one for each of the cigars he had smoked. He received a 24-month jail sentence and a $24,000 fine.
- Lloyd's provides cover for Wimbledon against any kind of disruption, cancellation or curtailment and not just the rain, which is a popular feature of the tournament every year. In 2003, the tailor-made policy included cover against disruption caused by an outbreak of Sars and for 2006, cover was specifically provided for avian influenza.
- In 2002, a sculpture by Marc Quinn entitled Self and made entirely of human blood, melted after builders disconnected the freezer it was stored in. The work was a life-size cast of the artist's head, made out of nine pints of his own blood. Charles Saatchi owned the work and it was reported that builders who arrived to extend Mr Saatchi's kitchen unplugged the freezer where the head was kept. Mr Saatchi had bought the piece for a rumoured £13,000 in 1991 although a claim was submitted to Lloyd's for closer to £1m.
- During the 1970s, Cutty Sark Whisky offered a £1m prize to anyone who could capture the Loch Ness monster alive. The whisky company insured itself against the possibility of paying the prize money, and the policy stipulated that in the event of a claim being made the animal should be brought to London and identified by a qualified zoologist.
- In June 2004, history was made when SpaceShipOne became the first privately-manned aircraft to reach space. Lloyd's insurer Amlin was the lead underwriter for the $100m liability policy for the craft, which was the first non-government-backed aircraft to successfully go beyond the earth's atmosphere, reaching a record-breaking altitude of 100 115 metres (328 461 feet).
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