• Posts by Michael S. Levine
    Posts by Michael S. Levine
    Partner

    Mike is a Legal 500 and Chambers USA-ranked lawyer with more than 25 years of experience litigating insurance disputes and advising clients on insurance coverage matters.

    Mike Levine is a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC ...

Time 5 Minute Read

Insurance coverage lawsuits often hinge on the plain and ordinary meaning of specific words or phrases. But not every word in an insurance policy can be defined. Yet without stable and predictable definitions, neither policyholders nor insurers can establish a clear and consistent scope of coverage. In a recent concurring opinion, Eleventh Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) large language models (LLMs) could help resolve these definitional debates. His opinion in Snell v. United Specialty Insurance Company, No. 22-12581, 2024 WL 2717700 (11th Cir. May 28, 2024) highlights the pros and cons of calling upon technology to supply plain meaning.

Time 3 Minute Read

We have previewed in prior posts the ways artificial intelligence is rapidly changing the way business operate, including the many ways AI has influenced the insurance market, creating both opportunities and risks for policyholders. We later highlighted, based on a recent securities lawsuit, how corporate management may be at risk for the alleged use or misuse of AI and how companies should evaluate their directors and officers (D&O) and management liability policies to ensure that they are prepared to respond to and mitigate AI-driven risks, including claims alleging that a company or its officers and directors made misrepresentations about AI.

Time 5 Minute Read

As we explained in our introductory post, rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) present multifaceted risks for businesses of all types. The magnitude, fluidity and specificity of these risks underscore why businesses should continually audit their own unique AI risks profiles to best understand and respond to the hazards posed by AI.

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Directors and Officers (“D&O”) and cyber-related incidents continued to make headlines while ramped up regulatory enforcement and new legislation significantly altered the insurance landscape for both policyholders and insurers. Other noteworthy decisions reinforced the importance of foundational insurance coverage principals. Now that 2023 has wrapped, we highlight and review some of the most significant decisions and insurance developments that will continue to impact the world of insurance in 2024 and beyond.

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Time 7 Minute Read

The Washington Supreme Court’s recent en banc decision in Pacific Lutheran University et al. v. Certain Underwriters At Lloyd’s London et al. looked to the broad language of the forum selection clause in the governing insurance policies in upholding the policyholders’ rights to select the forum for their coverage suit.

In Pacific Lutheran, 60 higher education institutions (the “Colleges”) filed suit in the Superior Court for Pierce County, Washington, against 16 insurers (the “Insurers”) that issued all risk insurance policies to the Colleges through the Educational & Institutional Insurance Administrators Inc. (“EIIA”), a risk retention group.  The Colleges brought suit to recover losses incurred as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Colleges selected the Washington state court based on the forum selection provisions contained in their insurance policies.  In particular, the Colleges relied on the policies’ “suit against the company” clause, which expressly allowed the Colleges to file suit “in any court of competent jurisdiction.”  The suit sought breach of contract damages and a declaration that the Colleges’ COVID-related losses are covered under the policies. 

Time 3 Minute Read

Hunton Andrews Kurth’s 300-lawyer cross-disciplinary Retail Industry Team has released its annual 2023 Retail Industry Year in Review. The Review discusses retail industry issues that implicate multiple legal practice areas and highlights new and emerging risks retailers may encounter in the year ahead.

Significant issues from 2023, with insurance implications that will continue to evolve in 2024 and beyond, include copyright infringement claims for retailers engaged in social media and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) related liability claims and related putative class action lawsuits.

We discuss these risks in the 2023 Retail Industry Year in Review and on our insurance recovery blog, along with other risks that will continue to affect the retail industry in 2024.

Time 3 Minute Read

Exercising its newly expanded jurisdiction that now permits Virginia’s intermediate appellate courts to hear insurance coverage disputes, the Court of Appeals recently reversed a lower court decision that allowed a two-year “Suits Against Us” provision to serve as a basis for an insurer’s refusal to reimburse repair and replacement costs incurred more than two years after the date of loss. Bowman II v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., Record No. 1256-22-3 (Nov. 21, 2023). CAV (unpublished opinion).

Time 4 Minute Read

A Michigan federal court in Wolverine World Wide Inc. v. The American Insurance Co. et al., No. 1:19-cv-00010 (W.D. Mich.), recently confirmed what should go without saying – a claim handler is a claim handler, even if they may also be a lawyer.  Recognizing that it’s the nature of the work that drives the analysis, the court ordered an in-house Travelers’ attorney to sit for a deposition in a PFAS coverage suit because the attorney was performing ordinary claim-handling activity.  In rejecting the insurer’s arguments, the court reiterated that “an insurer cannot create a ‘shroud of secrecy’ by simply designating an attorney to conduct an otherwise ordinary claim investigation.”

Time 10 Minute Read

Commercial general liability insurance policies are often written on an “occurrence” basis. An “occurrence” is typically defined as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.” Coverage, therefore, requires generally that the “bodily injury” or “property damage” (or “advertising injury” or “personal injury”) happen fortuitously during the effective policy period. Central to this inquiry is knowing when the injury or damage took place. 

Time 3 Minute Read

On September 26, 2023, KPMG published independent research showing that three-quarters of global businesses feel they are not ready for new ESG reporting regulations. KPMG’s findings are the latest reminder to businesses—and their directors and officers and other insureds—about the important role that Directors & Officers (D&O) insurance can play as businesses and organizations strive for ESG compliance and work to mitigate ESG-related risks.

Time 5 Minute Read

As previewed in part 1 of our AI Policyholder’s Guide, we now discuss how businesses can assess their AI risk to ensure that they are properly positioned to secure insurance coverage should those risks come to fruition. Because no two businesses will have the same AI risk profile, businesses should consider undertaking organization-wide AI risk audits to evaluate their unique AI risk profile.

Understanding the nature of AI-focused legal risk is not only important for business planning, but essential to crafting a comprehensive AI-specific risk management plan. Indeed, because insurance is often underwritten relative to specific risks, knowing the risks to be insured is a prerequisite to procuring the right type of coverage with terms most suitable to a given risk profile.

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The United States Supreme Court recently accepted review of In re Kaiser Gypsum Co., Inc., 60 F.4th 73 (4th Cir. 2023), a Fourth Circuit decision concerning “whether an insurer with financial responsibility for a bankruptcy claim is a ‘party in interest’ that may object to a Chapter 11 plan of reorganization.” This issue, while one of first impression for the SCOTUS, has been litigated several times in the appellate courts, leading to a circuit split over the interplay between Article III and 11 U.S.C. Section 1109(b). 

Time 4 Minute Read

Timely notice is an important first step in a successful insurance recovery.  But insurance policies are not always straightforward in identifying how, when, and to whom notice must be provided.  Some states may also impose additional procedural hurdles, including requiring policyholders to contact their insurers before filing suit (the idea behind this requirement is that it may avoid litigation).  Failing to comply with pre-suit requirements can hurt the policyholder’s recovery, as illustrated in a recent decision from the Northern District of Texas. 

Time 4 Minute Read

Sanctions are an extreme remedy; frequently sought, but seldom granted.  Such was the case in Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s action on behalf of hotel and casino, Treasure Island, LLC (“Treasure Island”), against Affiliated FM Insurance Company (“AFM”) in federal court in Nevada, where AFM “hid” documents which refute the insurer’s defense on the central disputed issue in Treasure Island’s case—and many more actions seeking insurance coverage for losses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.  A copy of the sanctions order can be found here.

Time 5 Minute Read

Earlier this month, the Eighth Circuit remanded a COVID-19 insurance recovery case to the district court on jurisdictional grounds. See Great River Ent., LLC v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., No. 21-3815, 2023 WL 5839565 (8th Cir. Sept. 11, 2023).The Eighth Circuit’s decision underscores federal courts’ continued scrutiny of subject matter jurisdiction—especially in complex cases involving limited liability companies.

Time 3 Minute Read

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing the way businesses operate, from the way we research and write, to the way data is processed, to the way inventory is measured and distributed, to the way employees are monitored and beyond. Soon, artificial intelligence might be providing life advice, saving hospital patients or accelerating the development of cities. It is already reshaping corporate America. Very few, if any, industries—including the insurance industry—are immune. As the consultancy McKinsey wrote in 2021, artificial intelligence “will have a seismic impact on all aspects of the insurance industry.” McKinsey’s prediction has proved prescient.

As AI continues to influence the insurance industry and the broader economy, new opportunities and risks abound for policyholders. It is therefore essential for policyholders to keep up-to-date about insurance law’s latest frontier. To help policyholders navigate this new frontier, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s insurance recovery team is introducing a new resource: The Hunton Policyholder’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence.

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On August 21, 2023, Southern California was hit by its first tropical storm since 1997.  The remnants of Hurricane Hilary brought record-breaking rainfall and knocked out power for thousands of Californians. This storm follows devastating wildfires in Maui, which killed over 110 people, and hot tub temperatures off the coast of Florida: the ocean reached 101 degrees (it should be just 74-88 degrees). The ocean’s record temperatures may strengthen the severity and prolong the season of this year’s hurricanes, which already plague Florida. According to an Accuweather meteorologist, the warm weathers are “just inviting a big system to hit the state again this year.” His prediction may prove true: Tropical Storm Idalia, expected to strengthen into a major hurricane, is scheduled to hit Tampa on Wednesday.

Time 4 Minute Read

Courts nationwide have issued a wide range of decisions on insurance coverage for lawsuits arising out of the opioid epidemic under commercial general liability policies. On August 17, 2023, a North Carolina federal court illustrated why coverage is also available under Directors and Officers (D&O) liability insurance policies. In The North Carolina Mutual Whole Company v. Federal Insurance Company, No. 1:22-CV-553, 2023 WL 5312234 (M.D.N.C.), the court determined a drug wholesaler’s D&O policy provides coverage for more than one hundred underlying lawsuits, rejecting the insurer’s argument that two exclusions, the contract and professional services exclusions, barred coverage.

Time 4 Minute Read

Harvard’s years-long battle with Zurich Insurance Company has finally ended. As our colleagues wrote in October 2022, Harvard already learned its lesson once when a court ruled that Zurich did not have coverage obligations after the university failed to provide timely notice of a lawsuit under its claims-made-and-reported insurance policy. Earlier this week, the First Circuit provided Harvard with a new volume explaining why it—and policyholders generally—should provide timely notice of claims to their insurers. The First Circuit’s decision in President & Fellows of Harvard Coll. v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., No. 22-1938, 2023 WL 5089317 (1st Cir. Aug. 9, 2023) is but the latest high-profile reminder about the importance of adhering to notice requirements, including with respect to excess insurers, in claims-made-and-reported insurance policies.

Time 3 Minute Read

The Fifth Circuit recently reaffirmed that an insurer’s duty to indemnify hinges on the facts determined in the underlying case, not the allegations. Thus, as confirmed by the Fifth Circuit’s July 31, 2023 decision in Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Copart of Conn., Inc., No. 21-10938, 2023 WL 4862793 (5th Cir. July 31, 2023), an adverse duty-to-defend decision may not foreclose a liability insurer’s indemnity obligations.

Time 8 Minute Read

This insurance coverage story begins like any other: an insurance company (Ironshore Specialty) issued a business insurance policy to a North Carolina hotel (RPG Hospitality). The policy provided coverage for wind-driven rain, but the most Ironshore would pay for such a claim was “the Wind Driven Rain Sub-Limit of Liability shown in the Sub-Limit Provision Endorsement.” However, the Ironshore policy contained no Sub-Limit Provision Endorsement. Ironshore testified that it left the endorsement out of the policy by mistake; RPG contended that it was intentionally omitted. After Hurricane Florence struck the insured hotel, causing severe damage, RPG tendered a claim and enlisted the assistance of an Ironshore adjuster in coordinating the demolition and repair work. The Ironshore adjuster, aware that the policy did not contain the relevant sub-limit endorsement, approved the work, which exceeded the purported sub-limit by millions of dollars. When Ironshore refused to pay, a lawsuit followed.

Time 5 Minute Read

While liability for PFAS—Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, also known as “forever chemicals”—may be an emerging issue, the availability of insurance coverage for these and similar liability claims is not. “Commercial general liability,” or CGL, insurance was specifically designed to cover claims made by a company’s customers or customers of customers for resulting bodily injury and property damage. PFAS claims fit this bill. 

Though insurance companies have attempted to deflect from this intentionally broad coverage, CGL exclusions traditionally have been narrow. Even “pollution exclusions,” which have been raised by insurers facing PFAS claims, have limited scope. PFAS are products; and, thus, when drafting pollution exclusions, the insurance industry represented to regulators that they should apply only when (1) insurers can prove the policyholder expected or intended the alleged injuries and (2) only to true “industrial” pollution. 

Time 5 Minute Read

GreenGate Fresh’s romaine lettuce might once have made you ill, but their recent victory in the New York Appellate Division certainly won’t. GreenGate was one of many lettuce producers forced to recall their lettuce amidst two E. Coli outbreaks in 2018. GreenGate sought coverage for the recall from its insurer, Houston Casualty Company, who denied coverage, contending that the government recall was not specifically directed at GreenGate. The trial court disagreed and entered judgment in favor of GreenGate. The New York Appellate Division affirmed, finding it irrelevant that GreenGate was not specifically named in the government’s recall recommendation.

Time 3 Minute Read

Hunton’s insurance team has offered its support on behalf of amicus curie United Policyholders in a brief to the First Circuit concerning the meaning of “surface water” in the context of a broad, all-risk property insurance policy?

Time 4 Minute Read

In a COVID-19 insurance coverage lawsuit that Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. filed against several insurers in Nevada state court, two recent rulings in favor of Hilton highlight the importance of strategic decisions early in a case. 

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

Six members of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s insurance coverage team (Walter Andrews, Lorie Masters, Koorosh "KT" Talieh, Larry Bracken, Mike Levine and Scott DeVries) attended the American College of Coverage Counsel’s annual meeting in Chicago, where Lorie Masters received the College’s prestigious Thomas F. Segalla Service Award. The College annually bestows the award in recognition of dedication and service to the College. Named in honor of the College's first president, the award recognizes recipients that demonstrate Creativity, Visibility, and Persistence, three characteristics that embody the approach of Tom Segalla to his practice, volunteerism, and leadership in the practice of law.  In addition to receiving the award, Lorie, as well as Larry and Mike, presented during the conference.

Time 5 Minute Read

On April 11, 2023, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed into law the Child Victims Act of 2023, allowing Maryland to join the growing number of states to rejuvenate previously time-barred lawsuits by victims of child sexual abuse against public school boards, government entities and private institutions. The Act also increases the statutory cap on civil damages for child sexual abuse—damages against public school boards and government entities are capped at $890,000 per incident, while per-incident damages against private institutions, including independent schools, are capped at $1.5 million. Maryland follows other states, like California and New York, which paved a path for abuse victims to bring previously time-barred claims based on alleged abuse that occurred decades earlier. Maryland is the first state, however, to pass this type of statute with a lookback period of infinite duration—meaning there is no limit for how long ago the alleged abuse occurred, and the statutes of limitation for lawsuits based on future acts of abuse are eliminated. Other states, such as New York and New Jersey, created limited lookback periods (one or two years), during which survivors were able to file previously time-barred claims.  

Time 3 Minute Read

Blockchain technology has been touted as inherently reliable for years. More recently, collectors of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have explored expanded uses for that novel technology. Some courts have bought in and, in doing so, recently authorized a use that perhaps no one had imagined when NFTs first entered the mainstream: service of process.

Time 4 Minute Read

The Eighth Circuit has affirmed that an AIG affiliate must cover the full $32 million loss stemming from an employee’s embezzlement scheme. The court found that not only was National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh (“National Union”) liable for the $3 million the employee actually stole, but that the plain language of the commercial crime policy also required coverage for the $29 million in excess costs her scheme caused Cargill to endure.

Time 3 Minute Read

Last week, the Fifth Circuit affirmed that a title company’s crime protection policy applies to cover loss from a fraudulent wire transfer. The insurer, RLI Insurance Company (RLI), had argued that the $250,945.31 transfer was not covered under the funds transfer fraud endorsement because the instruction that led to the transfer was authorized and approved by the insured, Valero Title Inc. (Valero). Specifically, a Valero employee instructed Valero’s bank to wire the funds to a fraudulent account after a fraudster posing as a lender’s employee intercepted email communications regarding a payoff transaction and deceptively instructed the transfer.

Time 4 Minute Read

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in EMOI Services, L.L.C. v. Owners Ins. Co., 2022 WL 17905839 (Ohio, Dec. 27, 2022), that a policyholder did not suffer direct physical loss of or damage to computer media that was encrypted and rendered unusable.  The Court reached its ruling even though “media” was defined in the policy to include “computer software,” concluding that software does not have a “physical existence.” The Supreme Court’s decision reverses an Ohio appellate court’s earlier ruling that the cyberattack triggered coverage under a commercial property insurance policy and builds upon plainly distinguishable rulings in COVID-19 business interruption cases, such as Santo’s Italian Café, L.L.C. v. Acuity Ins. Co., 15 F.4th 398, 402 (6th Cir. 2021), where the Sixth Circuit found that government orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic did not physically alter insured property.

Time 6 Minute Read

On November 23, 2022, a federal court in Minnesota highlighted the importance of strategically approaching product liability claims, both in terms of their underlying defense and their insurability. In Federal Insurance Company v. 3M Company, No. 21-2093 (JRT/DTS), 2022 WL 17176889 (D. Minn. Nov. 23, 2022), the court rejected the insurer’s attempt to treat each underlying lawsuit as a separate occurrence, thereby maximizing per-occurrence deductibles, and instead found that the manufacture of the allegedly defective medical devices was the sole occurrence responsible for each of the lawsuits. 3M, therefore, was only required to pay a single deductible.

Time 1 Minute Read

The Hunton insurance recovery team recently offered support in a matter of great importance to Maryland policyholders. The case is pending before the Maryland Court of Appeals on a question certified from a Maryland federal court in a COVID-19 business interruption insurance lawsuit brought by clothing manufacturer, Tapestry, Inc. Tapestry, the parent of luxury brands Coach, Kate Spade New York, and Stuart Weitzman, is suing its all-risk insurer, Factory Mutual, seeking recovery of millions of dollars lost due to the physical impact of COVID-19 on Tapestry’s retail stores and ...

Time 7 Minute Read

A Delaware court recently granted summary judgment to a mortgage broker targeted in a federal government investigation for alleged False Claims Act violations, holding that the company’s directors and officers liability (“D&O”) insurer was required to indemnify more than $15 million in settlement costs with the U.S. Department of Justice. Guaranteed Rate, Inc. v. ACE American Insurance Company, No. N20C-04-268 MMJ CCLD (Del. Super. Ct. Sept. 6, 2022). We previously reported on the policyholder’s earlier victory in this case, in which the court held that a Civil Investigative Demand (“CID”) from federal authorities triggered the insurer’s obligation to pay defense costs under the D&O policy.

Time 1 Minute Read

Hurricane Ian is rapidly approaching the west coast of Florida and is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near the Tampa area within the coming days. While the exact track is still being determined, there is a chance the storm may also impact insureds in Georgia and South Carolina. Now is the time to activate your disaster plan and ensure that you have your relevant insurance policies in your possession and that you review them for critical deadlines. 

We put together an alert here with tips to help you and your business mitigate potential storm loss and maximize coverage.

The ...

Time 4 Minute Read

As reported on this blog, policyholders have long been of the view that the presence of substances like COVID-19 and its causative virus  SARS-CoV-2, which render property dangerous or unfit for normal business operations, should be sufficient to trigger coverage under commercial all-risk insurance, as has been the case for more than 60 years.

However, many courts, federal courts in particular, despite decades of pro-policyholder precedent, have embraced the view that “viruses harm people, not [property].”  Thirty-one months after the start of the pandemic, the first state high court has gone in a different direction, according greater weight to pro-policyholder precedent.

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 4 Minute Read

Massachusetts’ highest court ruled earlier this month that attorney’s fees awarded under the Commonwealth’s consumer protection statute are not covered damages under a general liability insurance policy. Consequently, the decision in Vermont Mutual Insurance Co. v. Poirier, Slip Op. SJC-13209 (July 6, 2022), means that companies sued for allegedly unfair or deceptive practices may be left to fund awards of attorneys’ fees under Chapter 93A, even where other aspects of their liability may be covered by insurance.

Time 3 Minute Read

Recently, an Illinois federal judge ruled that where government shutdown orders due to COVID-19 in different states impacted one insured, that insured suffered separate occurrences in each effected state. Dental Experts, LLC v. Massachusetts Bay Ins. Co., No. 20 C 5887, 2022 WL 2528104 (N.D. Ill. July 7, 2022).

Time 3 Minute Read

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently gave another reminder why cyber insurance should be part of any comprehensive insurance portfolio.  In Construction Financial Administration Services, LLC v. Federal Insurance Company, No. 19-0020 (E.D. Pa. June 9, 2022), the court rejected a policyholder’s attempt to find coverage under its professional liability insurance for a social engineering incident that defrauded over $1 million.

Time 5 Minute Read

Texas is among the minority of states that permit few, if any, deviations from the “eight-corners rule,” which provides that an insurer’s duty to defend must be determined from the complaint and the policy, without regard to extrinsic evidence or facts. In Bitco Gen. Ins. Corp. v. Monroe Guar. Ins. Co., No. 19-51012, 2022 WL 1090800 (5th Cir. Apr. 12, 2022) (“Bitco”), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to consider extrinsic evidence in determining Bitco’s duty to defend and outlined when a court applying Texas law can deviate from the state’s strict eight-corners rule under the Monroe exception.

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 1 Minute Read

Hunton commercial litigators and insurance recovery lawyers teamed up to address the intricacies of snap removal – a strategy being employed by insurers and other litigants with increasing frequency.  The technique is designed to defeat the forum-defendant rule that permits a plaintiff to bring its case in state court when suing a defendant in the defendant’s own home state.  However, some courts to confront this maneuver have rejected its use, disallowing a savvy defendant to effect an end-run on the forum-defendant rule by promptly removing a state court lawsuit before an ...

Time 4 Minute Read

In 1938, a DuPont chemist’s experiment yielded not—as he first thought—a lumpen, waxy mistake, but a new chemical with remarkable properties: heat-resistance, chemical stability, and low surface friction. Decades of continuing experimentation yielded a class of chemicals with the capacity to make non-stick, water-resistant coatings. In time, these chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), would become a major component in thousands of consumer goods: food packaging, non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, paint, stain-resistant carpets and furniture, and firefighting foams. The discovery of the toxicity of these remarkable chemicals lagged behind the widespread adoption, but eventually yielded a moniker that reflected PFAS’s stability and longevity: “Forever Chemicals.”

Time 7 Minute Read

Liability insurance typically affords broad defense coverage.  But insurers sometimes reserve their right to challenge the insured’s right to a defense, or even outright terminate the defense.  When this occurs after the insurer has been in exclusive control of the defense, some courts recognize that the consequences can be catastrophic for the insured defendant.  Insurers, therefore, may be estopped from denying coverage where doing so will prejudice the insured.  This is exactly what transpired in RLI Ins. Co. v. AST Engineering Corp., No. 20-214 (2d Cir. Jan. 12, 2022), where the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision that an insurer’s attempt to withdraw the defense it had provided to its insured for three years would prejudice the insured.

Time 1 Minute Read
Supply chain disruptions caused by a number of unrelated events – the pandemic, ice storms, wildfires, and droughts – were commonplace in the retail industry in 2021.  Obtaining the correct insurance coverage can help mitigate present and future supply chain risks.  In the recently published Retail Industry 2021 Year In Review, we highlight some key concerns and coverages to look out for.  A copy of the full publication can be found here.
Time 1 Minute Read
While COVID-19 dominated the insurance coverage landscape in 2021, it was not the only subject of significant decisions in the insurance space. Directors and Officers coverage (“D&O”) and cyber insurance continued to make headlines while other coverage lines left the industry questioning what is to come in 2022. In our recently published "Year in Review: Top Insurance Cases of 2021," we highlight a few of the most impactful trends and cases in 2021 and look forward to what 2022 may deliver in the world of insurance coverage. A copy of the full publication can be found here
Time 3 Minute Read

From event-driven litigation and event cancellations to securities claims and regulatory enforcement actions, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a number of directors and officers liability exposures extending far beyond business interruption losses. The first wave of COVID-19 securities suits, for example, focused on allegations that companies made false and misleading statements or failed to disclose in securities filings how they responded to the pandemic (in the case of several cruise lines) or stood to benefit from it (in the case of pharmaceutical companies). Most, but not all, of those suits were dismissed on early motions. In all cases, however, those companies and individuals would have benefited from robust D&O liability insurance coverage.

Time 5 Minute Read

Another state court has issued a ruling favoring insurance policyholders in a COVID-19 business interruption dispute. This decision further confirms the trend of state courts recognizing the potential for coverage where many federal courts have not.

Time 3 Minute Read

The Central District of California recently rejected an attempt by Federal Insurance Company, a Chubb company, to avoid its duty to defend its insureds in an $8.5 million lawsuit with a former employee.

TriPacific Capital Advisors, LLC acquired Directors and Officers (D&O) coverage from Federal and Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage from Travelers Insurance Company. While those policies were in effect, a former TriPacific employee sued the company and its president, Geoffrey Fearns, for a variety of employment-related causes of action concerning his termination and compensation. TriPacific and Fearns tendered notice to both insurers, seeking indemnification and defense costs. Both policies contained a duty to defend.  While Travelers agreed to defend under a reservation of rights, Federal denied coverage based on multiple grounds, including its policy’s “other insurance” provision, contending that the provision rendered its policy “excess” to the Travelers policy.  Federal also argued that TriPacific had not satisfied the D&O policy’s $150,000 self-insured retention and, thus, coverage had not been implicated, in any event. TriPacific maintained that neither the SIR nor the “other insurance” provision pertained to Federal’s duty to defend and brought suit to enforce the duty to defend.

Time 4 Minute Read

Last month, the US District Court for the District of Connecticut granted an insurer’s motion for summary judgment in the case of Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA, No. 3:19cv839 (JBA), finding that there was no coverage under a directors & officers policy for defense costs associated with responding to a government subpoena. Last week, in line with our commentary, which highlighted several critical flaws in the court’s initial ruling, the court reversed itself and granted reconsideration, finding that there actually is coverage.

Time 2 Minute Read

It has taken a pandemic, but the fallacy of Couch’s “physical alteration” standard, accepted blindly by myriad courts nationwide in COVID-19 insurance disputes and beyond, has been revealed in an article co-authored by Hunton insurance partner, Lorie Masters, with substantial assistance from Hunton insurance associate, Rachel Hudgins.  The article, which received final publication in the American Bar Association’s TIPS Law Journal on October 26, 2021, makes a critical analysis of the landscape of judicial authority that existed when 10 Couch on Ins. § 148:46 (3d ed. 1998), the edition of Couch in which the standard first appeared, was published in the late 1990s.  The article then traces the evolution of that landscape through the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when courts nationwide (predominantly federal courts), seized upon Couch’s standard as though it were a constitutional mandate. But as the article reveals, the standard is flawed, and thus the decisions that rely on it, infirm.

Time 4 Minute Read

It happens every year. A clearly covered loss occurs and for one reason or another, the policyholder delays in notifying its insurer of the loss. Usually, the cause for the delay is innocent. It may even appear to be justified, such as where the insured prioritizes steps to save its property, inventory or assist dependent customers. But no matter the reason, insurers can be hard-lined in their refusal to accept an untimely claim. This is especially true in states that presume prejudice to the insurer, or where the insurer need not show prejudice at all.

Time 1 Minute Read

This year, like last, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an extremely active hurricane season. As we write this post, the Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, New York, and New England regions are still recovering from the devastation Ida has left in her path. Now is the time to ensure your insurance program is hurricane-ready. As reported in the client alert linked below, our insurance coverage team provides critical steps that you should take now to ensure that you protect your assets and maximize recovery in the unfortunate event of a hurricane claim.

Continue ...

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Hunton insurance attorney, Latosha Ellis, along with Hunton product liability and mass tort attorneys Elizabeth Reese and Alexandra Brisky Cunningham, recently published an article in Risk Management discussing key lessons from Peloton’s Tread+ Recall.

Time 4 Minute Read

A federal court in New York denied an insurer’s attempt to dismiss a coverage dispute, rejecting the insurer’s contention that the individual insured directors were “necessary” parties. The insurer argued that, because the outcome of the coverage suit could jeopardize the directors’ indemnity and thereby implicate the D&O policy’s Side A coverage for non-indemnified losses, the directors had an indispensable interest in the litigation. The court disagreed.

The coverage dispute in LRN Corp. v. Markel Insurance Co., 1:20-cv-08431 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 23, 2021), arose from an underlying lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court brought by an LRN shareholder against the company and three of its directors. The plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit alleged that a self-tender offer by LRN to acquire shares of LRN’s common stock was coercive and part of a scheme that was in part orchestrated by the LRN’s directors. LRN, though dismissed from the underlying lawsuit, continued to pay legal fees for the named directors.

Time 6 Minute Read

The Superior Court of Delaware held that a directors and officers liability insurer must advance defense costs to a mortgage broker targeted in a federal government investigation of alleged False Claims Act violations. In Guaranteed Rate, Inc. v. ACE American Insurance Company, No. N20C-04-268 MMJ CCLD (Del. Sup. Ct. Aug. 18, 2021), Guaranteed Rate received a Civil Investigative Demand from federal authorities in June 2019 regarding the company’s underwriting and issuance of federally-insured mortgage loans. Eleven days later, Guaranteed Rate provided notice of the CID under a private company management liability policy issued by ACE American Insurance Company.

Time 3 Minute Read

The Seventh Circuit has reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against Federal Insurance Company and a health insurance technology company for unauthorized robocalls soliciting the sale of health insurance. The court emphasized that the complaint, which alleged the two companies were vicariously liable for the calls, pled sufficient detail to move forward.

Time 3 Minute Read

On Tuesday, a New Hampshire trial court awarded summary judgment to the owner of scores of hotels after finding that the hotels sustained covered “physical loss of or damage to” insured property caused by the pandemic presence of COVID-19 and its viral agent, SARS-CoV-2. The merits ruling is yet another recent victory for policyholders who continue to make headway against an early wave of insurance company dismissals, most of which, unlike the ruling on Tuesday, never considered evidence in support of their decisions.

Time 3 Minute Read

In 2020, Americans faced a shortage of toilet paper. This year, companies face a shortage of microchips. Microchips are a crucial component in a growing number of electronic products, everything from smartphones to cars and household appliances. As the shortage trickles down the supply chain, downstream businesses are now unable to obtain the microchips or other components they need to make their products. This forced companies to slow or, in some cases, totally shut down their production lines until the supply of microchips can be restored. These slowdowns and closures have led to substantial losses of income for affected businesses. Fortunately, insurance coverage is likely available for these types of business income losses.

Time 5 Minute Read

On May 20, 2021, the Supreme Court of Illinois upheld the state appellate decision finding that that West Bend Mutual Insurance Company must defend its insured, a tanning salon, against a class-action lawsuit claiming violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) under two business owners’ liability policies.

Time 4 Minute Read

The Northern District of New York recently awarded summary judgment to insurer Affiliated Factory Mutual Insurance Co. against Mohawk Gaming Enterprises, a casino and resort operated by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe located on the border of New York and Canada. Mohawk Gaming sued AFM seeking recovery of business income losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In granting the insurer’s motion, however, the court failed to consider all parts of the AFM policy, as required under New York law, and failed to afford meaning to specific language contained in the policy’s two communicable disease sections, each of which specifically contemplate that “communicable disease,” as defined and covered under the AFM policy, can cause loss and damage to property. Instead, the court followed other decisions from “numerous courts around the country,” each of which is based on inherently flawed reasoning (e.g., reliance on cases where no presence of virus was alleged or cases that clearly and broadly excluded loss caused by virus), to conclude that the presence of virus “is insufficient to trigger coverage when the policy’s language requires physical loss or physical damage.” In fact, a federal court in Texas recently rejected the very same reasoning employed in Mohawk Gaming after recognizing that the FM/AFM policy form “is much broader than [others] and expressly covers loss and damage caused by ‘communicable disease.’” See Cinemark Holdings, Inc. v. Factory Mut. Ins. Co., No. 4:21-cv-00011 (E.D. Tex. May 5, 2021).

Time 3 Minute Read

In September, we discussed a Florida district court’s finding that an insurer must defend a Miami strip club in a lawsuit filed by 17 models who alleged the club used their images to promote its business without authorization. Recently, an Illinois federal judge ruled similarly, ordering that First Mercury Insurance Company defend its insured, Triple Location, against a similar lawsuit.

In First Mercury Insurance Co. v. Triple Location LLC, three models sued the insured strip club after it allegedly published their images without consent. The models claimed the unauthorized postings created the false impression that they had agreed to promote the insured business, Club O, which harmed their image, brand, and marketability. The models also alleged that the club was negligent in failing to adopt and implement policies and procedures to prevent the misappropriation of images.

Time 4 Minute Read

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Texas denied Factory Mutual’s Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that the plaintiffs adequately alleged that the presence of COVID-19 on their property caused covered physical loss or damage in the case of Cinemark Holdings, Inc. v. Factory Mutual Insurance Co., No. 4:21-CV-00011 (E.D. Tex. May 5, 2021). This is the third COVID-19-related business interruption decision from Judge Amos Mazzant since March, but the first in favor of a policyholder. Taken together, the three decisions have two key takeaways and provide a roadmap for policyholders in all jurisdictions.

Time 2 Minute Read

We are proud to share that Business Insurance has named Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance coverage associate, Latosha M. Ellis, one of the magazine’s 2021 Break Out Award winners. Business Insurance’s Break Out Awards honor 40 top professionals from around the country each year who are expected to be the next leaders in risk management and the property/casualty insurance field. Business Insurance reviewed hundreds of nominees, all of whom have worked in commercial insurance or related sectors for under 15 years. Out of those hundreds, Latosha was selected as one of the 40 honorees for 2021.

Time 3 Minute Read

On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York denied FM’s Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings after finding the Contamination Exclusion in the Factory Mutual policy to be ambiguous as to whether it bars coverage for business interruption losses resulting from communicable disease.  The case is Thor Equities, LLC v. Factory Mutual Ins. Co., No. 20 Civ. 3380 (AT) (SDNY).  This is a critical decision under the Factory Mutual policy form, which is substantively the same as policies issued by Factory Mutual’s sister company, Affiliated FM Insurance Company.  Factory Mutual and Affiliated FM have maintained that the contamination coverages are “exceptions” to this exclusion, with the exclusion precluding coverage for communicable disease loss under other policy coverages.  But the ruling validates what policyholders have been arguing – that communicable disease “loss” is covered throughout the Factory Mutual policy, in addition to under the sublimited communicable disease emergency response coverages.

Time 5 Minute Read

A South Florida restaurant has asked the US Supreme Court to overturn a federal district court’s ruling that the restaurant is not entitled to coverage under an “all risk” commercial property insurance policy for lost income and extra expenses resulting from nearby road construction. In the underlying coverage action, the policyholder, Mama Jo’s (operating as Berries in the Grove), sought coverage under its all-risk policy for business income losses and expenses caused by construction dust and debris that migrated into the restaurant. Should the Supreme Court grant certiorari, the case will be closely watched by insurers and policyholders alike as an indicator of the scope of coverage available under all-risk policies and whether the principles pertinent to construction dust and debris (at issue in Mama Jo’s claim) have any application to the thousands of pending claims for COVID-19-related business interruption losses pending in the state and federal court systems.

Time 1 Minute Read
Not surprisingly, COVID-19 business interruption insurance disputes dominated media headlines for most of 2020. Nonetheless, there were a number of other insurance rulings that will undoubtedly shape the coverage landscape. Policyholders enjoyed a number of significant wins including significant victories related to COVID-19 business interruption cases. The start of a new year gives us an opportunity to highlight some of 2020’s most notable coverage decisions. A copy of our recently published Year in Review: Top Insurance Cases of 2020 can be found here
Time 3 Minute Read

New Jersey’s highest court heard arguments Monday in the appeal of a ruling that the New Jersey Transit Corp.’s (“NJ Transit”) insurers are required to insure $400 million of water damage loss caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The matter stems from an insurance claim NJ Transit made after the super storm rocked the East Coast in 2012. NJ Transit claimed over $400 million in losses as a result of damage to its tracks, bridges, tunnels and power stations. In response, its tower of property insurers took the position that a $100 million flood sublimit applied to limit NJ Transit’s recovery under its insurance tower, not the policy’s $400 million overall limits.

Time 4 Minute Read

The Fifth Circuit recently rebuffed an attempt by Chubb subsidiary Ace American Insurance Co. (“Ace”) to evade liability from its excess insurer, Zurich North America subsidiary American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co. (“AGLIC”), after Ace unreasonably rejected a settlement offer within its policy limits in violation of its Stowers duty. See Am. Guarantee & Liab. Ins. Co. v. ACE Am. Ins. Co., 19-20779, 2020 WL 7487067 (5th Cir. Dec. 21, 2020). As a result, Ace must now pay approximately $7.27 million in damages to AGLIC to cover its costs to settle the underlying lawsuit plus prejudgment interest and court costs.

Time 6 Minute Read

On December 9, 2020, in Elegant Massage, LLC v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No 2:20-cv-00265-RAJ-LRL (E.D.V.A. Dec. 9, 2020) , a Virginia federal court refused to dismiss a majority of the policyholder’s breach of contract claim and its request for bad faith damages, declaratory judgment and class certification, all stemming from the insurers’ denial of coverage for COVID-19 related business income losses. The policyholder, a spa, purchased an all-risk property insurance policy with coverage for, among other things, loss of business income and extra expense. The spa, a non-essential business, closed on March 16, 2020 as a result of state orders requiring all non-essential businesses to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It did not reopen until May 15. Once re-opened, however, the policyholder was required to implement operational controls and precautions to ensure the safety of the public and its employees. Following its closure, the policyholder sought coverage under its all-risk insurance policy. The insurer denied coverage for the claim, contending first that losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent closure orders did not constitute “property damage” within the meaning of the policy and, second, even if the losses were because of “property damage,” the claim implicated various exclusions to coverage. The policyholder then initiated suit against its insurers.

Time 3 Minute Read

On November 25, 2020, an Illinois federal judge ruled in Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co. v. S.B.C. Flood Waste Solutions, Inc., that an Iowa based insurance company must continue to defend a waste disposal company in an underlying trademark infringement and defamation lawsuit.

Time 3 Minute Read

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has levied $125,000 in civil penalties on Cheesecake Factory as part of a settlement to resolve the agency’s allegations that the company made materially misleading statements to investors about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business. While this is the first such case reported by the SEC, it is only one in a string of recent third-party liabilities companies have faced that implicate directors’ and officers’ liability insurance coverage.

Time 3 Minute Read

On November 19, 2020, a Delaware judge ruled in Indian Harbor Ins. Co. v. SharkNinja Operating LLC, et al., that insurer Indian Harbor must defend SharkNinja against underlying patent infringement and false advertising claims despite a patent infringement exclusion.

Time 4 Minute Read

On November 10, 2020, a New York federal judge dismissed an insurer’s counterclaims seeking to cap its exposure under a $15 million sublimit and an order estopping the policyholder from pursuing any additional amounts.

Time 3 Minute Read

In American Reliable Insurance Company v. Lancaster, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a property insurer’s summary judgment motion concerning the insurer’s denial of a fire loss claim.  The basis of the denial was that the policyholders had failed to pay the policy premium.  The policyholders, Charlie and Wanda Lancaster, claimed that they had paid their policy premiums for several years to their insurance agent, Macie Yawn.  In October 2014, American Reliable mailed a renewal notice to the Lancasters notifying them that premium payments had to be made directly to the insurer.  After it did not receive payment from the Lancasters, American Reliable sent them a cancellation notice in December 2014, again notifying them that payments be made directly to the insurer.  The Lancasters denied having received either notice from American Reliable, but the record included a receipt for certificate of mailing.

Time 3 Minute Read

In another victory for policyholders, a Pennsylvania judge denied an insurer’s early attempt to avoid coverage for losses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the judge did not explain his reasoning, the denial is positive news for policyholders who are litigating whether COVID-19 causes “physical damage or loss” and whether so-called “virus” exclusions limit or bar coverage for pandemic-related losses.

Time 4 Minute Read

In a resounding victory for policyholders, a North Carolina court ruled that “all-risk” property insurance policies cover the business-interruption losses suffered by 16 restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.  North State Deli, LLC v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., No. 20-CVS-02569 (N.C. Sup. Ct., Cty. of Durham, Oct. 7, 2020).  This is the first judgment in the country to find that policyholders are, in fact, entitled to coverage for losses of business income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Equally important, the decision illustrates that a proper analysis of the operative policy provisions requires this result.

Time 8 Minute Read

On October 6, 2020, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash Jr. issued Georgia’s first COVID-19 business interruption insurance decision, finding Governor Brian Kemp’s State of Emergency Executive Order did not cause “physical loss of” the policyholders’ closed dining rooms. Henry’s Louisiana Grill, Inc. et al. v. Allied Ins. Co. of Am., No. 1:20-cv-2939-TWT (N.D. Ga. Oct. 6, 2020). The decision takes an unusually narrow view of the phrase “loss of,” as it is used in the policy and, consequently, reaches a conclusion that is inconsistent with how other courts have analyzed the phrase.

Time 2 Minute Read

A Pennsylvania trial court denied an insurer’s early attempt to lunge out of coverage for COVID-19 business interruption losses suffered by a fitness center, stating it would be premature for the court to resolve factual determinations the insurer raised in its demurrer. Ridley Park Fitness, LLC v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., No. 200501093 (Pa. Ct. Com. Pl. Aug. 13, 2020).

Time 3 Minute Read

Earlier this year, lawyers for plaintiffs applied to the MDL Panel for consolidation of all COVID-19 business interruption cases in federal courts throughout the country.  On August 12, the Panel rejected plaintiffs’ requests for a single consolidation but requested briefing on the possibility of mini-MDLS as respects five of the insurers that accounted for approximately one third of these cases: Lloyds (26 actions), Cincinnati (70 actions), Hartford (130 actions), Society Insurance (24 actions) and Travelers (45 actions).  On Thursday, September 24, the Panel held a nearly three-hour hearing.

Time 2 Minute Read

A New Jersey trial court recently denied an insurer’s motion to dismiss a COVID-19 business interruption suit brought by a group of optometry practices finding unsettled questions under New Jersey law about whether loss of a property’s functional use can constitute “direct physical loss” under a property policy. Optical Services USA/JC1 v. Franklin Mutual Ins. Co., No. BER-L-3681-20 (N.J. Super. Ct. Bergen Cty. Aug. 13, 2020) (transcript). Based on this finding, the court determined that the optometrists were entitled to issue-oriented discovery and to amend their complaint accordingly.

Time 4 Minute Read

Walmart announced this week that it is testing a pilot program in North Carolina for the delivery of groceries and household items using automated drones, joining other retailers looking to beef up their drone delivery business.  In a related development, last week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated Amazon Prime Air as an “air carrier,” a key step in the process of Amazon’s quest to expand into the delivery-by-drone arena.  Amazon joins Wing, the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary, and UPS as companies that have obtained FAA approval to operate unmanned aircraft systems (i.e., drones) under the federal regulations.  Given the rapid rise of commercial drone use, businesses have understandably grown concerned that their drone technologies will expose them to a new set of risks, including damage to the drone itself, as well as third-party claims following property or physical injury caused by a company-operated or company-owned drone (and other third-party claims like invasion of privacy).  In light of these risks, it is key that businesses using drones obtain the insurance coverage necessary to protect themselves against such risks, and that they explore all coverage options should a drone-related loss arise in order to maximize their chances of insurance recovery.

Time 8 Minute Read

On August 28, Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of California, entered the latest ruling in the ongoing saga of the COVID-19 business interruption coverage dispute between celebrity plaintiff’s attorney Mark Geragos and Insurer Travelers.

Time 4 Minute Read

On August 13, 2020, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas granted State Farm Lloyds’ (“State Farm”) motion to dismiss a claim for loss of income resulting from multiple executive orders requiring closure of non-essential businesses in Bexar County, Texas following the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] In doing so, the court admitted that courts across many jurisdictions have found “physical loss” in the absence of tangible destruction to a covered property. However, the court glossed over such analogous cases involving disease-causing agents such as E. coli, ammonia, and asbestos, where those courts found the existence of physical loss.

Time 3 Minute Read

As Texas and Louisiana brace for Hurricane Laura to make landfall, policyholders in the affected regions should be making last minute preparations to ensure their properties are covered in the storm’s wake.

Time 5 Minute Read

On August 18, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a District Court’s 2018 ruling that Sparta Insurance Company need not cover a south Florida restaurant’s lost income and extra expenses resulting from nearby road construction. But, in doing so, the appeals court appears to deviate from even its own understanding of “direct physical loss” under controlling Florida law.

Time 6 Minute Read

On August 6, 2020, in Rose’s 1 LLC, et al. v. Erie Insurance Exchange, Civ. Case No. 2020 CA 002424 B, a District of Columbia trial court found in favor of an insurer on cross motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether COVID-19 closure orders constitute a “direct physical loss” under a commercial property policy.

Time 3 Minute Read

Deciding that certain damages claimed by the underlying case plaintiff were covered “Loss” under a professional services policy, the Eleventh Circuit determined that AEGIS must pay to defend a Georgia landlord in a class action for wrongful failure to return tenants’ security deposits under O.C.G.A. § 44-7-35(c).  The policy defined “Loss” as “a compensatory monetary amount for which the Insured may be held legally liable, including judgments . . . awards, or settlements,” but specifically excluded:

Time 4 Minute Read

A hotel operator defeated an insurer’s motion to dismiss its suit alleging that the insurer wrongfully denied coverage and acted in bad faith by denying the hotel’s $1.9 million claim arising from an employee’s fraudulent scheme diverting commissions to fictitious travel agencies. The court held that the hotel operator had suffered an “insurable loss” and rejected the insurer’s argument that the claim was barred under the policy’s suit limitations provision.

Time 3 Minute Read

On May 26, 2020, a California Court of Appeals (4th District) issued its decision in Mosley et al. v. Pacific Specialty Ins. Co.  The case arose in the context of a marijuana-growing tenant who rerouted a home’s electrical system and caused an electrical fire.  The issue was whether the homeowner’s policy covered the loss.  The trial court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment and, in a divided decision, the Court of Appeals reversed in part.

Time 1 Minute Read
Navigating discovery in coverage and bad faith suits can often feel daunting to young associates. This is especially true given that the discoverability of common insurance materials, such as claim files, underwriting files, and reserve information, often varies by jurisdiction. Hunton Andrews Kurth attorneys Andrea DeField and Adriana Perez authored an article, published in the American Bar Association Insurance Coverage Journal, discussing some of the most common discovery issues that arise in insurance coverage and bad faith actions. The full article is available here
Time 4 Minute Read

An appeals court has overturned an insurer’s successful dismissal of an insurance coverage lawsuit arising from the insurer’s refusal to defend a North Carolina assisted living operator in a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging more than $60 million in damages. The court held that that the insurer improperly denied coverage under the operator’s professional liability policy (covering “damages resulting from a claim arising out of a medical incident”) because the alleged improper billing had a causal connection to the operator’s failure to render medical professional services and, therefore, “arose out of” a covered medical incident.

Time 3 Minute Read

A federal court recently added prejudgment interest for the period before and after an arbitration award despite the panel’s prior refusal to award interest. ExxonMobil Oil Corp. v. TIG Ins. Co., No. 16-cv-9527 (S.D.N.Y. May 18, 2020).

Time 1 Minute Read

Scott DeVries, the former head of Winston & Strawn’s insurance coverage practice, has joined Hunton Andrews Kurth in the firm’s San Francisco office.  Scott’s addition to the practice adds great depth and experience to an already rich roster of coverage professionals.  The move comes after Winston had transitioned its practice to the representation of insurers.  Hunton – a policyholder-only practice – offers Scott a platform to continue securing coverage for policyholders and a seasoned team of coverage attorneys across the firm’s national footprint.  Scott’s bio can be found here, and an article appearing in Law.com’s The Reporter announcing Scott’s arrival can be found here.

Time 1 Minute Read

The wave of COVID-19 litigation should cause courts to consider whether the plain meaning of a general liability insuring agreement triggers coverage for certain damages flowing from COVID-19 losses. Policies with insuring agreements providing coverage “because of” bodily injury or property damage are broader than those that apply coverage “for” bodily injury or property damage. Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance attorneys Syed S. Ahmad and Rachel E. Hudgins authored an article published by the Insurance Coverage Law Center analyzing this difference. The full article is available here.

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 2 Minute Read

Following on the heels of the directive issued to business-interruption eruption, insurers by the New York Department of Financial Services, Ricardo Lara, the Insurance Commissioner for the State of California, issued a “request for information,” about business interruption and related coverages so that the State can address “public policy options” and “understand the number and scope of business interruption type coverages in effect” in California and “the approximate number of [such] policies that exclude viruses such as COVID-19.”

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