• Posts by Kevin V. Small
    Posts by Kevin V. Small
    Counsel

    Kevin is a commercial litigator who represents clients in insurance coverage disputes and other business litigation. Kevin represents policyholders in complex coverage disputes involving claims under various types of ...

Time 4 Minute Read

Novolex Holdings, LLC v. Illinois Union Insurance Company is one of the few cases involving a claim under a Representation and Warranties (“R&W”) policy playing out in a public forum because most R&W cases are resolved before a formal dispute and often don’t reach litigation. In addition, most R&W policies provide the policyholder with the option to have the dispute resolved through arbitration, which many clients may prefer so as to avoid the public scrutiny of a court case. Novolex, however, is one of the few cases that has proceeded to litigation.

Time 2 Minute Read

A software company—Zywave, Inc. (“Zywave”)—recently filed a lawsuit in California federal court that may provide rare insight into how courts will resolve representations and warranties (“R&W”) insurance coverage disputes. Zywave purchased a buyer-side R&W policy in connection with its acquisition of an insurance product-distribution software company. Zywave alleged that, post-close, it learned that the seller had knowledge of “serious material performance issues with certain customers that it failed to disclose,” amounting to breaches of various sections of the acquisition agreement. The software company further alleged that if the seller had disclosed the performance issues, the software company would have either walked away from the transaction or paid a lower purchase price.

Time 7 Minute Read

Representations and warranties coverage disputes are far more often resolved through informal or confidential proceedings rather than litigation. Law 360 recently published an article by Hunton insurance counsel Syed Ahmad, Patrick McDermott, and Jae Lynn Huckaba analyzing a rare representations and warranties dispute in the summary judgment stage of litigation between pH Beauty Holdings III Inc. and its representation and warranties insurers. As summarized below, the authors provide an overview of the issues in dispute, which related to the RWI retention, an exclusion related to the purchase price adjustment following closing, and pH Beauty’s bad faith claim.

Time 1 Minute Read

The Supreme Court of New Jersey recently agreed to hear ACE American Insurance Company’s appeal of an Appellate Division decision finding that a war exclusion in a property insurance policy did not preclude coverage for Merck & Co., Inc.’s claim stemming from a 2017 cyberattack. We previously reported about this case here.   

Time 4 Minute Read

The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division recently upheld a lower court’s finding that the war exclusion in a property insurance policy did not preclude coverage for Merck’s claim stemming from a 2017 cyberattack. The decision is appropriately being heralded as a huge win for policyholders and an affirmance of New Jersey’s longstanding history of protecting policyholders’ reasonable expectations. We previously blogged about developments relating to the war exclusion and the Merck case when it was initially heard by the Appellate Division.

Time 4 Minute Read

Artificial intelligence technology (“AI”) is poised to radically improve human functionality, although some say the technology is quietly learning how to overtake it. In the meantime, the insurance industry has been using AI to save time, attain consistency and improve risk mitigation. However, while the industry looks forward to cost savings and better business utilizing generative AI, some insurers have simultaneously cautioned policyholders about the potential risks that reliance on AI may pose. Insurer’s cautionary statements cast doubt on the integrity of their own reliance on the technology.

Time 2 Minute Read

The explosive growth of representations and warranties (R&W) insurance over the last decade is no secret.  But, for many, R&W insurance remains an enigma, particularly as respects filing a claim under such policies.  Indeed, even those involved in buying R&W insurance may not have experience on the claims end and, as a result, possess little knowledge on how to navigate the assortment of issues that may arise.  Of course, policyholders pursuing a claim under an R&W policy should be aware of the minefield of issues that await in establishing the two primary thresholds to recovery: breach ...

Time 2 Minute Read

The Fourth Circuit recently held that a “literal” interpretation of a North Carolina insurance law was “poppycock.” Whitmire v. S. Farm Bureau Life Ins. Co., No. 21-1643 (4th Cir. 2022). The case involved a North Carolina statute that required an insurer to provide notice by mail addressed to the insured’s “last known post-office address in this State.” The person that was to receive notice under the statute had lived in North Carolina but then moved to South Carolina. The insurer provided notice at the person’s South Carolina address. It did not provide notice at the person’s last known address in North Carolina. So the beneficiary of the life insurance argued that notice did not meet the North Carolina statute because it was not provided at “last known post-office address in this State,” i.e. North Carolina.

Time 5 Minute Read

In Yahoo, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, PA., the California Supreme Court confirmed that contra proferentem and other rules of policy interpretation apply even to language insurers argue is “manuscript” as long as the provisions in question use standard-form policy terms. There, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to answer a certified question regarding whether a commercial general liability policy (CGL) covers defense costs related to claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) (47 U.S.C. § 227). Following a thorough and thoughtful assessment of California law involving fundamental rules of policy interpretation, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the policyholder, Yahoo, Inc. (“Yahoo!”). The authors of this article represented amicus curiae, United Policyholders, in support of Yahoo! before the California Supreme Court. 

Time 3 Minute Read

Harvard College and Zurich American Insurance Company have been embroiled in an insurance coverage dispute for over a year regarding Zurich’s obligation to cover Harvard’s hefty defense bills incurred defending its affirmative action admissions policy, which is presently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, the world-renowned university told a District of Massachusetts court that it should deny Zurich’s motion for summary judgment because questions of fact remain unresolved. Harvard also accused Zurich of inappropriate discovery gamesmanship by withholding documents and information. 

Time 2 Minute Read

A Texas jury has found that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus on the property of Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) caused “physical loss or damage” and resulting economic loss, triggering coverage under BCM’s commercial property insurance program. The jury awarded BCM over $48 million following a three-day trial; the award consisted of $42.8 million in business interruption, $3.3 million in extra expense, and $2.3 million in damage to research projects.

Time 1 Minute Read

Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP partner Syed Ahmad was quoted on July 20 in a Law360 article titled “R&W Insurance Claim Frequency Expected To Normalize.”  The article discussed the recent reduction in R&W claims and industry experts’ expectations that claim frequency will return to normal levels this year.  Mr. Ahmad commented on the challenges policyholders may face when disputing claims in court.  In particular, while there is plenty of case law regarding disputes between buyers and sellers over breaches of representations and warranties, there is very little precedent on how ...

Time 1 Minute Read

Partner, Andrea DeField, and counsel, Latosha Ellis, were each recently awarded “On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyers” honors by the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. The award honors 40 of the nation’s most promising lawyers under the age of 40 or who have been licensed for 10 years or less. Recipients demonstrate high achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, and service to the profession and their communities, including extensive knowledge in litigation or transactional work and commitment to pro bono, charitable, or professional ...

Time 4 Minute Read

In what is an unfortunate sign of the times, Springpoint Senior Living, Inc. recently sued its insurers in New Jersey federal court claiming they abruptly stopped covering Springpoint’s defense costs after doing so for nearly a decade.  A copy of the complaint can be found here. Springpoint’s allegations are emblematic of a growing trend among insurers taking drastic measures to avoid coverage, which is no doubt in response to the tightening economic conditions and looming recession around the globe. 

Time 6 Minute Read

NL Industries recently prevailed against its commercial general liability insurers in the New York Appellate Division in a noteworthy case regarding the meaning of “expected or intended” injury and the meaning of “damages” in a liability insurance policy. In Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. NL Industries, Inc., No. 2021-00241, 2022 WL 867910 (N.Y. App. Div. Mar. 24, 2022) (“NL Indus. II”), the Appellate Division held that exclusions for expected or intended injury required a finding that NL actually expected or intended the resulting harm; not merely have knowledge of an increased risk of harm. In addition, the court held that the funding of an abatement fund designed to prevent future harm amounted to “damages” in the context of a liability policy because the fund has a compensatory effect. NL Industries II is a reminder to insurers and policyholders alike that coverage is construed liberally and exclusions are construed narrowly towards maximizing coverage. 

Time 2 Minute Read

An amended version of the Comprehensive Insurance Disclosure Act recently went into effect in New York State. This law applies to all civil lawsuits filed in New York State Court on or after December 31, 2021. The first disclosures required by the law will be due soon and it is important for defendants to be aware of their new obligations.

Time 4 Minute Read

A commentator recently summed up the risk of ransomware attack in 2022: “we’re all screwed.” True enough. But that’s all the more reason to prepare right now. After all, the only thing worse than a ransomware attack is not having adequate insurance coverage when it occurs. The time to prepare is now.

Time 1 Minute Read

After any merger or acquisition, disputes can arise regarding the accuracy of representations and warranties made by the seller to the buyer. In most transactions today, the buyer obtains representation and warranty insurance to cover the buyer for losses resulting from the seller’s breach of a representation or warranty. When an R&W policy provides coverage, a seller may attempt to offset its obligations to the buyer by amounts paid by the R&W insurer. Likewise, the R&W insurer may attempt offset against the damages paid by the seller to the buyer. But other legal and equitable ...

Time 4 Minute Read

The Indiana Supreme Court recently reversed a trial court’s finding and an affirming intermediate appellate court opinion regarding the interpretation of a policy providing coverage for cyber-crime. In G&G Oil Co. of Indiana, Inc. v. Continental Western Insurance Co., the state high court rejected the lower courts’ narrow interpretation of coverage and impractical view on causation. A copy of the decision can be found here.

Time 4 Minute Read

Hunton insurance attorneys Syed Ahmad, Geoffrey Fehling, and Kevin Small commented on a retailer’s insurance dispute related to COVID-19 in the latest edition of the Recall Roundup, posted on the Hunton Retail Law Resource Blog.

In a setback for retail-policyholders hoping to enforce coverage for losses due to COVID-19 in federal court, a Tennessee district court recently knocked out a complaint filed by a sprawling Nashville establishment seeking coverage under a food contamination provision in its property policy. The court’s opinion dismissing Nashville Underground LLC v. AMCO Insurance Co. is noteworthy due to the great lengths taken to define a policy provision—intended to provide broad coverage for disruption of business due to the suspicion of food contamination—in a way that limits coverage contrary to the reasonable expectations of businesses purchasing policies specifically tailored to protect against actual or suspected contamination.

Time 1 Minute Read
Louisiana joins a growing list of states, including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, and New York that are considering legislation, here and here,  that would require insurance coverage for the business interruption losses caused by COVID-19.  We have discussed other legislative efforts here and here.  The Louisiana House and Senate have each put forth bills that would, like the other states’ measures, require insurers to cover business interruption losses due to COVID-19 despite policy language that an insurer might try to rely on to argue otherwise.  Unlike the other bills ...
Time 1 Minute Read

Following New Jersey, where similar legislation remains under informal discussion, lawmakers in Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York have now introduced legislation that would provide relief to small businesses for COVID-19 business interruption losses.  The legislation is conceptually identical to the legislation introduced in New Jersey, discussed here last week.  Although the New Jersey bill was subsequently pulled for further consideration with insurance industry representatives, it does appear to have been the roadmap for the Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York measures.  ...

Time 1 Minute Read

Last week, we reported that the New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill that would force property insurers to cover certain business interruption losses arising from COVID-19.  The bill presented a lifeline to small businesses in New Jersey that are being racked by the economic fallout stemming from COVID-19.  Before reaching the New Jersey Senate, however, the bill was pulled from consideration with little explanation.  The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Roy Freiman, D-16th District, reportedly stated that, in lieu of the legislation, insurers would be given the opportunity to ...

Time 2 Minute Read

On March 16, 2020, the New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill that would force property insurers to cover business interruption losses arising from the COVID-19 virus sustained by small businesses (less than 100 employees working more than 25 hours a week); a copy of the bill can be found here.  Significantly, the bill would force coverage even where the insurer believes its policy should not apply.  In particular, the bill provides that property policies in effect as of March 9, 2020, will be construed as providing “coverage for business interruption due to global virus transmission or pandemic,” including COVID-19.  As written, the law would defeat any attempt by insurers to rely on exclusions that purport to preclude coverage for business income loss resulting from viruses, including the much-touted ISO CP 01 40 07 06 Virus or Bacteria Exclusion that insurer-side advocates have been championing as a purported bar to COVID-19 losses.  The bill would provide much-needed relief to the New Jersey policyholders that are enduring the worst of COVID-19’s economic impact with the least ability to withstand it.

Time 5 Minute Read

Ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, a federal court in New York held that AIG Specialty Insurance Company (AIG) must cover the settlement of an underlying action against its insured, SS&C Technologies Holdings, Inc. (SS&C), who was duped by e-mail scammers to issue millions in wire transfers.  The court rejected AIG’s assertion that the loss resulted from SS&C’s exercise of authority or discretionary control of client funds where SS&C only had limited administrative authority and further held that, even if SS&C had exercised the requisite authority, the exclusion was ambiguous.  A copy of the court’s decision can be found here.

Time 4 Minute Read

Following a bench trial, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found in The Cincinnati Insurance Co. v. The Norfolk Truck Center that a commercial truck dealer’s social engineering loss arose directly from a computer, thereby triggering the dealer’s computer fraud coverage, notwithstanding that the scheme involved numerous non-computer acts in the causal chain of events.  A copy of the decision may be found here.

Time 5 Minute Read

In Ferguson v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co., the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, found that a public entity liability policy covered the injuries sustained by a man that had been wrongfully convicted, notwithstanding that the policy was issued years after the relevant prosecution.  The court’s ruling is in stark contrast to the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sanders v. Illinois Union Insurance Co., No. 124565, 2019 WL6199651 (Ill. Nov. 21, 2019), the subject of a prior blog, where the court found that it was the policies in place at the time of the wrongful prosecution that provided coverage for the offense.  In our earlier blog, we discussed the costly consequences the Sanders decision could impose on policyholders in Illinois.  Although reaching an opposite conclusion than Sanders, Ferguson is based on different policy language and, ultimately, does not appear to be inconsistent with the Sanders decision.  While certainly a welcomed decision from a policyholder’s perspective, Ferguson and Sanders highlight the importance that policy wording can play in defining the scope of an insurance program and how similar factual scenarios can result in drastically different coverages based on seemingly minor differences in policy wording.  A copy of the Ferguson decision can be found here.

Time 1 Minute Read
Few areas of New York law as complex and nuanced as the law regarding an insurer’s duties to defend and indemnify.  To help practitioners efficiently navigate this area of the law, Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance attorneys Michael S. Levine and Kevin V. Small authored a Q&A guide published by Practical Law.  The full article is available here.  In the Q&A guide, the authors identify questions practitioners are likely to encounter regarding an insurer’s duties to defend and indemnity and provide succinct answers and citations under New York law ...
Time 5 Minute Read

The Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sanders v. Illinois Union Insurance Co., 2019 IL 124565 (2019), announced the standard for triggering general liability coverage for malicious prosecution claims under Illinois law.  In its decision, the court construed what appears to be a policy ambiguity against the policyholder in spite of the longstanding rule of contra proferentem, limiting coverage to policies in place at the time of the wrongful prosecution, and not the policies in effect when the final element of the tort of malicious prosecution occurred (i.e. the exoneration of the plaintiff).  The net result of the court’s ruling for policyholders susceptible to such claims is that coverage for jury verdicts for malicious prosecution – awarded in today’s dollars – is limited to the coverage procured at the time of the wrongful prosecution, which may (as in this case) be decades old.  Such a scenario can have costly consequences for policyholders given that the limits procured decades ago are often inadequate due to the ever-increasing awards by juries as well as inflation.  Moreover, it may be difficult to locate the legacy policies and the insurers that issued such policies may no longer be solvent or even exist.  A copy of the decision can be found here.

Time 3 Minute Read

In a recent decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reiterated that the duty to defend broadly requires a liability insurer to defend an entire lawsuit against its insured, even where only some of the allegations are potentially covered.  The court further held that the insured has no obligation to apportion defense costs among multiple implicated policies.  The decision, Selective Way Insurance Company v. Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company, et al., can be found here.

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