Editor’s Note: This is a slightly modified version of some new content for the Informed site (you should really subscribe there too), but given the holiday nature of the topic, I thought it would also be a good year end post for the blog as well.
What’s worse than leaving your eight year old at home when you take the family to France? Coming home to a big insurance claim! No? That’s not worse?
OK, probably not, but it’s pretty bad. If your reaction when you watch Home Alone isn’t “I wonder how much the insurance company had to pay for all that damage”, then, good for you…you’re normal.
Some of us though – well, maybe just one of us – wonder about these things. I also believe a great way to teach people about insurance is to make it relatable.
So, today I can provide you the answer to the 30 year old mystery of how much would the insurance company pay for Harry and Marv’s (aka the Wet Bandits) crime spree.
Before we get started, a couple of notes. Yes, I really did watch the whole movie and take notes about every piece of property damage or personal injury. All for your entertainment!
Secondly, I did afterwards find someone who estimated the cost to repair the McCallister property. It’s about $10,000. However – spoiler alert – insurance covers a lot more than just the property damage.
Before we get into the specific potential claims, let’s do a high level summary of potential losses involved:
– The property damage, some by Kevin and some by the Wet Bandits.
– The theft, burglary, and vandalism committed by the Wet Bandits.
– The medical damage to the Wet Bandits.
– Potentially a liability claim by the Wet Bandits.
– There are also some smaller, less obvious claims to address.
For each incident, I will do two things:
a) cover the events from the movie that created each of these exposures
b) assess the validity of the potential insurance claim involved
Unfortunately, no pictures to show the events because Disney won’t like that, but I have provided time stamps and some links if you want to look up the clips yourself. With that context in place, let’s get started!
The Incidental Damage
Let’s start with what clearly isn’t covered. There were some incidents early in the movie before the main “battle” between Kevin and the Wet Bandits that raise insurance questions.
Interestingly, all these potential claims would be denied. I guess the screenwriters didn’t take the insurance implications seriously until later in the script?
#1: The Pizza Delivery Driver (timestamp: 7:15 and 47:15)
Remember the pizza driver at the beginning of the movie (who later returns to be “shot” at by Kevin)? Both times he visits the house he knocks over a lawn statue.
Would the damage he did be covered by auto insurance? In theory, yes, but that was a pretty cheap statue.
Verdict: It’s unlikely to cost more than the deductible, so that would not reach the level of a claim.
#2: The Broken Shelves (36:50)
Soon after Kevin discovers he has been abandoned, he seeks out money to buy some things. He remembers his brother has stashed his savings on the top shelf in his room.
However, Kevin isn’t tall enough to reach, so he decides to crawl up a series of lower shelves to get to the top. Unfortunately, all the shelves break under his weight collapsing to the floor and breaking the items they were holding.
Verdict: One might suspect this damage would be covered, but given it was reckless behavior by Kevin that caused the shelves to break, this is an uncovered loss.
#3 The Shoplifted Toothbrush (40:00)
When Kevin goes into town to buy some items at the pharmacy, he gets scared and runs out carrying a toothbrush he didn’t pay for. The clerk assumes he is shoplifting and a police officer chases after him.
Verdict: While, in theory, the store could file a theft claim, this loss too is well below its likely deductible, so nothing to claim here.
So, while we’re still early in the movie, things are coming up pretty empty so far. But don’t worry, it’s about to get better.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff. Kevin’s battle with the Wet Bandits. There are several angles we need to consider.
The McCallister Home
As mentioned earlier, the actual property damage was pretty minimal. The article referenced above suggested about $10,000 in damage, but not all of that would be covered by insurance.
In fact, much of it would not be covered since it was not sudden or accidental (as required by insurance). Rather, it was premeditated and intentional!
Even if it were covered, you’re not filing a claim for a new doorknob or broken Christmas ornaments. Some of the feathers (1:23:00) did land on a painting as well as the dining room furniture, but those likely could be picked off without leaving damage.
The most likely property damage claim would be for the tar on the basement stairs (1:21:00) since that damage was structural. However, given that Kevin intentionally spread the tar, it would likely be denied.
There is also a potential claim for burglary since Harry and Marv broke into the McCallister’s home. There’s just one problem. They didn’t actually steal anything! So no claim there.
Verdict: Surprisingly, the McCallister’s home insurer may not have to pay anything!
The Wet Bandits
So, are we done? Oh, not even close. There are some people who are going to get paid by insurance. And chief among them are the Wet Bandits themselves!
I’m kidding, right? Actually, not at all. They faced many injuries at the hands of Kevin. We need to evaluate whether these would qualify for medical damages coverage for their hospital bills.
First, let’s list all of the many injuries they sustained at the hands of Kevin:
They were shot with a BB gun (1:16:50), hit on the head with an iron (1:19:55) and a paint can (1:24:20), burned by a blow torch (1:21:40) and a heated doorknob (1:20:25), stepped on nails (1:21:10), broken glass (1:23:30), and hot tar (1:21:00), fell from a zipline (1:28:30), and slipped on frozen steps (1:17:55).
These are some serious injuries (and all in the space of only ten minutes)! Frankly, most of them should have resulted in an immediate 911 call and a trip straight to the hospital. Several of them would have required surgery. We could easily be looking at six figures worth of medical costs.
But are they covered? After all, they were burglars! Insurance shouldn’t pay for their injuries!
Medical coverage to others is a unique coverage though. It pays to anyone injured on your property regardless of fault. You do not have to be found liable for the injured person to receive payment.
So Harry and Marv would really get their hospital bills paid by the McCallister’s home insurance? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. We need to check the exclusions in the policy.
There is no exclusion I can find for self defense, so that does not get Kevin off the hook. However, there are two other clauses we should note.
First, there is an exclusion for intentional injury. If you punch your neighbor and break his nose, insurance isn’t paying for the medical bills. All of Kevin’s booby traps would be considered intentional injury.
Furthermore, medical damage only pays if the injured person had permission to be on your property, which the Wet Bandits clearly did not.
Verdict: The McCallister’s home insurance will not pay for the Wet Bandits’ medical bills. But, didn’t I say they were going to get paid for their trouble?
Yes, they will because, when someone intentionally injures you, you have a liability claim! That’s right Harry and Marv can sue the McCallister’s for their injuries. And they have an excellent case!
First off, Kevin intentionally injured them. Sure, it was self defense, but did he need to go to such lengths or was it excessive?
Second, was icing the outside steps really self defense or creating a danger that anyone could have been injured by, not just the burglars? This was clearly reckless! Same with the scalding hot doorknob. What if a police officer came to check on him and was burned instead?
However, the biggest cause of liability isn’t Kevin’s actions. It’s his parents! Their negligence in leaving Kevin home alone led directly to the Wet Bandits’ injuries. That’s right, if they had just kept track of their kid, nobody would have been hurt. That’s a very strong negligence case!
Verdict: So the Wet Bandits didn’t make any money from their attempted robbery, but they will make plenty back in court when the McCallisters are found guilty of not supervising a child prone to booby trapping a house!
We don’t know the amount of liability coverage they had, but many people carry too low a liability limit. Hopefully, the McCallisters had an umbrella policy or they might have faced a lien against their now famous home to pay the judgment!
The Murphy House
So, that’s it, right? We addressed Kevin and we addressed the bad guys, what else could possibly be left? Oh, did you forget the neighbor’s house the Wet Bandits hit before they came for Kevin?
This is the one house that actually has insured damage…and a lot of it! This house belongs to the McCallisters’ friends, the Murphys (who we never see on screen other than one of their children briefly).
Recall, the Wet Bandits break in and are seen stealing china and other valuables (37:50) from what appears to be the dining and family rooms. We don’t have a complete inventory of what they got, but Marv is also seen carrying electronics out of the house and their van is presumably full of other belongings.
Verdict: The Murphys definitely have an insured contents claim. The question is whether their policy would have been robust enough to make them whole for their losses or only partially reimbursed them.
This depends on whether their contents policy provided for replacement coverage or actual cash value and whether they had a personal floater for the valuables that likely would only have limited coverage under their basic policy.
However, the Murphys have a far greater worry. Marv decides to flood their home on the way out by plugging the kitchen sink and turning on the water (41:10). We see later that the basement is filled with water and presumably much of the first floor too.
Now, water claims can be tricky. Many times water damage isn’t covered. Water in the basement is rarely covered. However, these aren’t normal circumstances.
The water damage was a result of vandalism. Marv purposely turned on the water as his “calling card”. That’s intentional damage which is textbook vandalism.
Verdict: Any resulting water damage should be covered. We don’t have enough visual evidence to see how widespread the water damage is, but it’s easy to imagine this being a six figure claim.
Add on the contents claim, which would likely be north of $10,000, and the Murphys have a significant insurance payout coming their way. Sadly, the movie tells us little about our insurance protagonists so we can only imagine how the insurance company treated them.
If we were taking bets at the start of this article, I’m guessing most readers would have put their money on the McCallister family having the biggest insurance claim, but they may not end up getting paid anything!
The most likely claim from their policy would be the liability settlement that their insurance would pay to the Wet Bandits!
But given the uncertainty in any liability suit, the people most likely to collect from insurance are the Murphy family, who most readers probably forgot about.
So, our final tally looks like:
The Murphys: $$$ (at least $100K)
Wet Bandits: $$$ (if they win their liability suit, potentially millions!) or $0 (if they lose)
McCallisters: probably $0
And there you have it. When you watch a movie like an insurance adjuster, you often find a whole new main character from the one on the movie poster…or even in the actual cast!
If you have requests for other movies you’d like to see me analyze from an insurance perspective, let me know. I am taking requests! And if you enjoyed this, please share the link with others and you’ll probably enjoy my alien article too!