A Legal Analysis of Tiger King, Episode 1, Part 2: "Not Your Average Joe”

May 7, 2020

By: Thomas K. Rinaldi and Joshua M.C. O'Neill

There would never be a dull moment serving as Joe Exotic’s attorney. After advising him to draft a “work made for hire” agreement with Rick Kirkham, I would next have a frank discussion with Mr. Exotic about his insurance coverage and potential liability issues.  

Although Mr. Exotic said, “Dying doesn’t scare me at all,” his guests probably don’t feel the same way. Sure, driving a convertible with a lion as a passenger – with the wind ruffling both your hair and the lion’s mane – would be exhilarating. Yes, figure skating with an actual tiger at a local arena to the soundtrack of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” would be awesome. And taking a selfie with a tiger cub at the mall no doubt would make you a viral sensation on social media. But…

But the question remains: Did Mr. Exotic ever look into what his insurance would cover if an “incident” occurred? 

What if the lion jumped into the driver’s lap as he traveled 80 mph down the interstate, causing a head-on collision? What if the tiger was not a fan of Survivor, and his human partner wasn’t able to triple axel out of harm’s way? What if the tiger cub preferred Tik Tok over Facebook?  

As general counsel to G.W. Zoo and Mr. Exotic, I would want to read the insurance policy to determine policy limits and applicable exclusions. Policy limits set the maximum amount an insurance company will pay in relation to a claim. Say, for example, someone is injured at the mall by a tiger cub (while trying to pick the best filter for a snap) and their damages total $2 million. If G.W. Zoo has only $1 million in coverage, the company’s assets may be at risk.

An exclusion is a provision that eliminates coverage for some type of risk. It is possible the insurance policy would not cover a claim by an ice skater disfigured by his/her ferocious partner – or a car crash caused by an anxious lion. Although Mr. Exotic might not be a fan of ice skating or sport cars, company assets could be at risk if these claims are excluded under the company’s insurance policy.

Don’t be like Joe. If you need help understanding your risk and what your insurance policy may or may not cover, please feel free to contact Thomas K. Rinaldi in Florida, a.k.a. the “Attorney Ordinary,” or Joshua O’Neill in New York.