Posts in Duty to Indemnify.
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When obtaining insurance coverage, businesses must be wary of policy exclusions that are so broad that they defeat the policy’s primary purpose and render coverage illusory. In Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. H.E. Sutton Forwarding Co., LLC, No. 2:21-CV-719-JES-KCD, 2023 WL 5486746 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 24, 2023), the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida considered this very issue in deciding when a policy exclusion goes too far.

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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.

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On March 20, 2023, the Southern District of New York denied a policyholder’s claim for coverage and granted the insurer’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in Pine Management, Inc. v. Colony Insurance Company. The parties disputed whether a real estate liability insurance policy provided defense and indemnification for Pine Management, Inc. in an underlying lawsuit brought by numerous companies that Pine managed. A simple question proved pivotal in the outcome: whether Pine had timely sought coverage for its claim.

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An oft-seen version of the insuring agreement in Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies provides that the insurance company will pay for “any and all sums” the policyholder is “legally obligated to pay” for liabilities “imposed by law” or “assumed under contract.”  In an effort to disclaim coverage for liabilities arising out of or related to contract, insurers have argued that the prong for liabilities “imposed by law” refers to tort-based liabilities only, thus seeking to avoid liability with a relationship to contract.  This argument, however, defies the plain insuring language defining how the CGL policies are triggered.  This post explains why, under a proper reading of the insuring language, contract-based liabilities should qualify under the “imposed by law” prong of a CGL insuring agreement.

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While total False Claims Act recoveries decreased in 2020, FCA litigation and investigations are expected to continue to rise under the Biden administration, driven in part by the DOJ opening 250 new FCA investigations and actions in 2020, which is the highest number of new matters since 1994. As recent decisions show, the good news is that companies incurring legal fees defending against government investigations or negotiating settlements with regulators to resolve FCA claims may be able to look to D&O coverage to mitigate those losses. One such company recently prevailed in its $10 million claim against an excess D&O insurer following the insurer’s improper refused to contribute its policy limits to an FCA settlement with the DOJ. The Illinois federal court decision, Astellas US Holdings, Inc. v. Starr Indemnity & Liability Co., No. 17-cv-08220 (E.D. Ill. Oct. 8, 2021), which focuses on whether $50 million of Astellas’s settlement payment to the DOJ was covered “Loss” under the D&O policy, provides useful guidance for companies facing potential FCA exposures.

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A D.C. federal judge recently held that an insurer could be responsible to a TV station for more than $25 million in an underlying malpractice suit where the insurer failed to send timely notice preserving its rights under the policy in violation of a Virginia statute.

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed a ruling from the Northern District of Illinois that a subcontractor’s insurer must defend the general contractor in a negligence suit brought by an employee of the subcontractor for injuries suffered on the job.

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A Massachusetts intermediate appellate court recently found no coverage for a general contractor listed as an additional insured under a subcontractor’s general liability insurance policy. The general contractor sought coverage for a negligence action brought by an employee of the subcontractor regarding workplace injuries.

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In responding to a certified question from the Fifth Circuit in Richards v. State Farm Lloyds, the Texas Supreme Court held that the “policy-language exception” to the eight-corners rule articulated by the federal district court is not a permissible exception under Texas law.  See Richards v. State Farm Lloyds, 19-0802, 2020 WL 1313782, at *1 (Tex. Mar. 20, 2020).  The eight-corners rule generally provides that Texas courts may only consider the four corners of the petition and the four corners of the applicable insurance policy when determining whether a duty to defend exists.  State Farm argued that a “policy-language exception” prevents application of the eight-corners rule unless the insurance policy explicitly requires the insurer to defend “all actions against its insured no matter if the allegations of the suit are groundless, false or fraudulent,” relying on B. Hall Contracting Inc. v. Evanston Ins. Co., 447 F. Supp. 2d 634, 645 (N.D. Tex. 2006).  The Texas Supreme Court rejected the insurer’s argument, citing Texas’ long history of applying the eight-corners rule without regard for the presence or absence of a “groundless-claims” clause.

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Hunton Insurance partners Syed Ahmad and Michael Levine were interviewed by Law360 for its year-end article discussing the top insurance rulings in 2019, for their insights on two of the year’s biggest insurance decisions.

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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 ...
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On December 9th, the Eleventh Circuit held that a loss of over $1.7 million to scammers was covered under a commercial crime insurance policy’s fraudulent instruction provision.

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On November 12, 2019, a federal court in Kentucky held that a vendor service agreement (VSA) between Live Nation Worldwide Inc. and its security vendor, ESG Security, extended coverage under an insurance policy issued by Secura Insurance to ESG, for Live Nation’s liability arising from a concert at a Live Nation facility.

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A federal court in Illinois ruled recently, in Cincinnati Insurance Company v. H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Company, that Cincinnati Insurance Company was required to indemnify H.D. Smith for a $3.5 million settlement it reached with the State of West Virginia.  The settlement resolved an action in which West Virginia alleged that H.D. Smith contributed to the state’s opioid addiction epidemic through its negligent distribution of opioid prescription drugs.

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The Seventh Circuit held last week that a manufacturer’s insurer must cover its insured, a designer and builder of anaerobic digesters, under its errors and omissions policy for claims alleging breach of contract, despite an exclusion in the policy for claims arising out of the breach of an express or oral contract. The decision in Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company v. DVO, Inc., No. 18-2571 (7th Cir. Sept. 23, 2019), illustrates the practical application of policy construction to avoid what would otherwise amount to an illusory promise of coverage.

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On September 18, 2019, a Texas federal court vacated its prior ruling and entered summary judgment for the insured, finding that after a hacker impersonating the customer convinced the insured to wire $1 million out of the customer’s account, the insurer had a duty to defend its insured against claims by its customer because the potential for coverage existed.  See Quality Sausage Company, LLC, et al. v. Twin City Fire Insurance Co., Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-111 (S.D.TX) (Dkt. No. 110).  The prior order was based on disputed extrinsic evidence, which the court considered in deciding the duty to defend, even though Texas’ narrow exception to the “eight corners” rule is limited to only undisputed extrinsic evidence.

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The Third Circuit ruled on Friday that differing “occurrence” definitions can have materially different meanings in the context of whether product defect claims constitute an “occurrence” triggering coverage under general liability insurance policies. The Court held in Sapa Extrusions, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, that product claims against Sapa may be covered under policies that define an “occurrence” as an accident resulting in bodily injury or property damage “neither expected nor intended from the standpoint of the insured.”  However, the Court affirmed that coverage was not triggered under policies lacking the “expected” or “intended” limitation, reasoning that, under those policies, there was no question that the intentional manufacturing of Sapa’s product was too foreseeable to amount to an “accident.”

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Real estate investment trust VERIET, Inc. (formerly known as American Realty Capital Properties) announced this week that it agreed to a $765.5 million settlement to resolve shareholder class action and related lawsuits arising from a host of alleged securities violations and accounting fraud at ARCP since the company went public in 2011. Defendants in the class action settlement have agreed to pay more than $1 billion in compensation, including millions from ARCP’s former manager and principals, chief financial officer, and former auditor.

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In an insurance coverage action pending in the S.D.N.Y., Hunt Construction Group (Hunt) contends that Berkley Assurance Company wrongfully denied defense coverage for claims arising out of the renovation of Hard Rock Stadium (home to the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes football teams).

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A Massachusetts federal court ruled last week that Allied World Insurance Co. must pay for a Boston law firm’s defense of counterclaims asserted against it in a lawsuit over, among other things, the proper ownership of client files and materials.

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California’s highest court held yesterday in Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co., that the state’s insurance notice-prejudice rule is a “fundamental public policy” for the purpose of choice of law analyses. This unanimous ruling, issued in response to certified questions from the Ninth Circuit, confirms and emphasizes California’s common law rule that policyholders who provide “late notice” may proceed with their insurance claim, absent a showing by the insurer of substantial prejudice. The California Supreme Court also extended the prejudice ...

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On August 19, 2019, a Texas appellate court reversed a trial court’s summary judgment in favor of an excess carrier, and ruled as a matter of law that an arbitration award in favor of a former officer was covered under the EPL component of a management liability policy.  In doing so, the court rejected the carrier’s reliance on an Insured v. Insured exclusion.  The court also looked to the policy’s definition of “Interrelated Wrongful Acts,” a concept typically relied on by carriers to deny or limit coverage, to sweep a variety of allegations within the scope of the policy’s EPL insuring agreement and an exception to the Insured v. Insured exclusion.

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On August 6, 2019, Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance lawyers Walter J. Andrews and Daniel Hentschel discussed the effect of eroding insurance policies in an article appearing in Florida’s Daily Business Review. The full article is available here. In the article, the authors discuss the potential risks associated with the use of eroding insurance policies and the obligations that the use of such policies imposes upon insurance companies based on their control over the policyholder’s liability defense ...
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Increasing public concern over sexual misconduct, evidenced by the #MeToo movement and investigations into high-profile organizations such as USA Gymnastics, the Boy Scouts of America, various religious institutions, and the entertainment industry, has led to the enactment of laws that may have a major impact on the coverage litigation world. This year, eighteen states and the District of Columbia will enact laws modifying the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, allowing victims to bring claims that otherwise would have been time-barred.

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A Louisiana court recently denied an excess insurer’s bid for summary judgment, finding that the insurer’s interpretation of a pollution exclusion would lead to “absurd results.”

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A Delaware court held that an appraisal action, which includes $39 million in attorneys’ fees, prejudgment interest, and costs incurred in defending litigation that arose out of Solera Holdings Inc.’s acquisition by Vista Equity Partners LP, constitutes a covered “securities claim” under Solera’s directors and officers liability insurance policy.

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Last week the Northern District of Illinois held in Magnetek, Inc. v. Travelers Indem. Co., 2019 WL 3037080 (N.D. Ill. July 11, 2019), that Travelers had a duty to defend Magnetek, Inc. under insurance policies issued to Magnetek’s predecessor, Fruit of the Loom (“FOTL”). A copy of the Magnetek decision can be found here.

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A federal court has ruled in Catlin Specialty Ins. Co. v. J.J. White, Inc., that settlement of an underlying third-party lawsuit involving covered and uncovered claims requires consideration of two principles of proof. First, the factfinder must assume that the insured was actually liable in the underlying case. Second, the factfinder must resolve all factual issues necessary to deciding coverage. A copy of the decision can be found here; and a copy of a related summary-judgment opinion can be found here.

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In a significant win for policyholders, the Ninth Circuit rejected an insurer’s argument that the common meaning of “war” applied when interpreting a war exclusion, instead of the customary usage of the term, pursuant to Cal.  Civ. Code 1644, and revived NBC Universal’s attempt to recover at least $6.9 million in costs incurred to relocate the production of a television show from Jerusalem during the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Universal Cable Prods., et al., LLC v. Atl. Specialty Ins. Co., 2019 WL 3049034, at *10 (9th Cir. July 12, 2019).

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On July 2, 2019, the Fifth Circuit held in Frederking v. Cincinnati Ins. Co.., that Cincinnati Insurance Company was on the hook for injuries resulting from a drinking and driving collision because the collision amounted to an “accident” under its insurance policy. 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 19796, __ F.3d __, 2019 WL 2751700.

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The Delaware Superior Court recently held, in Conduent State Healthcare, LLC v. AIG Specialty Insurance Company, et al., that a government-conducted civil investigation constitutes a “Claim” sufficient to trigger coverage under a professional liability insurance policy. Conduent State Healthcare, LLC (“Conduent”) alleged that Defendant AIG Specialty Insurance Company (“AIG”) breached its obligations by refusing to defend and indemnify Conduent for costs incurred in connection with a Medicaid fraud investigation.

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A federal court in Pennsylvania has held that Liberty Mutual must defend its insured, Hershey Creamery Company, in an intellectual property infringement lawsuit because the suit raises claims that potentially implicate coverage under the policies’ personal and advertising injury coverages. The court further found that the alleged wrongful conduct was not subject to the policies’ IP infringement exclusion.

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The Scott Fetzer Co. v. Zurich American Insurance Co. matter involved a dispute over coverage for sexual assault claims against Fetzer. Three women filed suit against Fetzer, claiming that John Fields, an independent dealer of vacuums manufactured by Fetzer, verbally and sexually assaulted them. Fetzer’s alleged liability was premised on, among other things, its negligence in supervising its independent contractor’s hiring process. Fetzer settled with each of the three women.

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On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit found that Lloyd’s syndicates may not subrogate against an additional insured and may not force that additional insured to arbitration. Lloyd’s Syndicate 457 v. FloaTEC, LLC, No. 17-20550 (5th Cir. Apr. 17, 2019).

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The Southern District of Georgia recently ruled that Evanston Insurance Company is not entitled to summary judgment on whether its policies’ pollution exclusion bars coverage for the release of nitrogen into a warehouse. The case stems from an incident at Xytex Tissue Services, LLC’s warehouse, where Xytex stored biological material at low temperatures. Xytex used an on-site “liquid nitrogen delivery system” to keep the material properly cooled. This system releases liquid nitrogen, which would vaporize into nitrogen gas and cool the biological material. On February 5, 2017, a Xytex employee, Deputy Greg Meagher, entered the warehouse to investigate activated motion detectors and burglar alarms. Deputy Meagher was overcome by nitrogen gas and died as a result. Following Deputy Meagher’s death, his heirs filed suit against Xytex and other defendants. Evanston denied coverage based on the pollution exclusion in its policy. Evanston then brought a declaratory judgment action to confirm its coverage position.

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A recent First Circuit ruling underscores that a well-negotiated insurance policy can cover claims for which state law has no remedy. In Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Mountaire Farms Inc., Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Company insured AdvancePierre Foods Inc., a maker of ready-to-eat lunches and sandwiches. In 2015, a string of salmonella outbreaks were linked to chicken in AdvancePierre’s products, prompting AdvancePierre to recall more than 1.7 million pounds of chicken. The recall cost AdvancePierre over $10 million, which Starr covered under AdvancePierre’s product-contamination policy.

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The Georgia Supreme Court ruled this week that First Acceptance Insurance Co. need not pay a $5.3 million excess judgment against its insured, Ronald Jackson.  First Acceptance Ins. Co. of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes, No. S18G0517, 2019 WL 1103831 (Ga. Mar. 11, 2019), even though Jackson’s insurer could have settled the claim for Jackson’s $50,000 policy limits.

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In a March 13, 2019 article appearing in Law360, Hunton Insurance team head, Walter Andrews, explains the adverse impact of a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that attempts to clarify the rules governing settlement of insured liability claims under Georgia law.  As Walter explains, however, the decision stands to hinder settlements and potentially subject innocent insureds to staggering liability beyond that covered by their insurance.  In First Acceptance Ins. Co. of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that policyholders must make a “valid offer” – that is, one that contains definite time limits and other terms - before an insurance company is required to settle.  As Walter told Law360, the court took “an overly narrow approach” that is “disturbing and is likely to act as a deterrent to settlements in the future.” He goes on to explain that insurance companies will actually have less incentive to settle, “which means that fewer cases will settle and cases will linger longer in court, which is not in the interests of either the injured parties or the insured defendants.”

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In an article appearing in Electric Light & Power, Hunton insurance recovery lawyers, Lawrence Bracken, Sergio Oehninger and Alexander Russo discuss the insurability of losses resulting from the recent wildfires in California.  Many affected by the tragedy have tried to shift responsibility to utility and power companies, which also may face subrogation claims from insurers that paid property and business owners for first-party losses.  In addition, liability insurance programs may help defray costs imposed upon those believed to be at fault, including costs resulting from ...

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Policyholders facing any type of products liability scored a win in a recent decision from the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The court found that an insurance company must defend its insured against claims arising out of a recall while simultaneously funding the insured’s affirmative claims for recovery.

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As the new year gets under way, cases that will shape the insurance landscape in 2019 continue to proceed.  Among them are First Acceptance Ins. Co. v. Hughes, in which the Georgia Supreme Court will address the prerequisites for a policyholder to sue its insurance carrier for bad faith based on the insurer’s failure to settle the underlying dispute for an amount within the available policy limits.  Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance practice head, Walter Andrews, was asked by Insurance Law360 to comment on the significance of that case.  As Andrews explained, the insurer’s position is inconsistent with Georgia law.  "Georgia law does not require some particular form of settlement offer — or even an offer at all — to create an insurer's duty to settle claims against their insureds." Rather, as Andrews explained, “that duty arises when the insurer knows or reasonably should know that not settling will create an 'unreasonable risk' of the insured suffering a judgment in excess of his or her policy limits, regardless of whether a third-party claimant has first presented a settlement offer. Most often, that should be a jury question and not something that is susceptible to summary judgment."

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The Second Circuit has ruled a claim alleging an “offer for sale” infringed on a patent constitutes an advertising injury sufficient to trigger a defense under commercial general liability insurance.  In High Point Design LLC v LM Insurance Corporation, the plaintiff High Point brought a declaratory-judgment action against Buyer’s Direct, Inc. after the latter directed High Point to cease-and-desist in the sale of its Fuzzy Babba slippers.  Buyer’s Direct responded with a counterclaim alleging trade dress infringement, claiming that High Point’s offers for sale in retail catalogs infringed on Buyer’s Direct’s own slipper trade dress.  Buyer’s Direct sought discovery of all advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to High Point’s fuzzy footwear to substantiate its claims.

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The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently granted summary judgment in favor of developer, KB Homes, ruling that Southern Owners Insurance Co. must defend KB Homes under various Commercial General Liability policies.

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The Fifth Circuit in Evanston Insurance Co. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co. recently held that multiple collisions caused by the same insured driver over a span of 10 minutes constitute a single occurrence subject to a $1 million limit in the insured’s primary policy with Mid-Continent. The holding reversed a lower court’s ruling that Mid-Continent is liable for an additional sum the excess insurer, Evanston, paid to resolve all of the claims arising from the collisions. At issue, a fundamental question about causation and coverage under commercial liability insurance.

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In a prior post, we discussed a New York trial-court decision that found an insurance policy issued in 1966, to insure the construction of the World Trade Center, continues to cover modern-day asbestos claims, with each claim constituting an individual occurrence.  Last week, in American Home Assurance Co. v. The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., 7628-7628A (1st Dep’t Nov. 15, 2018), an intermediate appellate court affirmed that decision, agreeing that coverage is triggered for claims tied to alleged asbestos exposure at the WTC site in the 1960s and ’70s.

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In a win for policyholders, a California appellate court has held that the loss of use of property resulting from alleged negligence constitutes property damage under a liability insurance policy.

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A California federal court found coverage under AIG’s general liability policy for the defense and indemnity of email scanning suits against Yahoo!. Those suits generally alleged that Yahoo! profited off of scanning its users’ emails. Because the allegations gave rise to the possibility that Yahoo! disclosed private content to a third party, the court found that the suit potentially fell within the coverage for “oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that violates a person’s right of privacy.” Thus, AIG’s duty to defend was triggered.

The court also ...

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North Dakota’s highest court delivered a blow to Mid-Continent Casualty Company in Borsheim Builders Supply, Inc. v. Manger Insurance Co., ruling that a contract between a policyholder and general contractor fit the insured contract exception of contractual liability.

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In a victory for policyholders, a New York trial court rejected insurers’ summary judgment arguments, ruling that an insurer must establish a common “fact, circumstance, situation, transaction or event” underlying an investigation before it can rely on a prior and pending litigation and investigation (“PPLI”) exclusion based on that earlier investigation. The court further ruled that the insurer cannot base its coverage denial on a common “fact, circumstance, situation, transaction or event” learned during the investigation.

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In a victory for policyholders, and an honorable mention for Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the dispersal of concrete dust that damaged inventory stored in an aircraft part distributor’s warehouse was a pollutant, as defined by the policy, but that it also constituted “smoke” as that term was defined in the dictionary, thereby implicating an exception to the policy’s pollution exclusion.  The Court then granted summary judgment for the policyholder, who had suffered a $3.2 million loss.[1]

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The Second Circuit has rejected Chubb subsidiary Federal Ins. Co.’s request for reconsideration of the court’s July 6, 2018 decision, confirming that the insurer must cover Medidata’s $4.8 million loss under its computer fraud insurance policy.  In July, the court determined that the loss resulted directly from the fraudulent e-mails.  The court again rejected the insurer’s argument that the fraudster did not directly access Medidata’s computer systems.  But the court again rejected that argument, finding that access indeed occurred when the "spoofing" code in emails sent to Medidata employees ended up in Medidata's computer system.

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On Monday, a Nevada federal court held that U.S. Fire Insurance Co. (“U.S. Fire”) need not cover its insured, CP Food and Beverage, Inc. (“CP”), a strip club, under its commercial crime policy for a scheme perpetrated by its own employees that resulted in the theft of money from CP customers. A copy of the decision can be found here.

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The California Court of Appeal has affirmed that Lloyd’s of London and other insurers cannot escape coverage for $132.5 million in settlements arising from the 2008 Chatsworth train crash, in which 25 individuals were killed and more than 130 injured. In Those Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. Connex Railroad LLC, No. B276373, 2018 WL 1871278 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. Apr. 19, 2018), the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the Los Angeles Superior Court’s ruling, discussed in our November 9, 2015 blog post, that the insurers were obligated to indemnify Connex Railroad for the settlements.

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Two recent decisions addressing allocation of long-tail liabilities demonstrate that resolution of the issue under New York law depends upon the policy language at issue. Judge-made rules on “equity” and “fairness” do not control.  As the New York Court of Appeals held on March 27, 2018, in Keyspan Gas East Corp. v. Munich Reinsurance America, Inc., 2018 WL 1472635 (2018), under New York law, “the method of allocation is covered for most by the particular language of the relevant insurance policy.” Both Keyspan and the April 2, 2018 decision in Hopeman Brothers, Inc. v. Continental Casualty Co., No. 16-cv-00187 (E.D. Va. Apr. 2, 2018), by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, illustrate the importance of reviewing insurance policies - both before purchase, to ensure that they contain optimal language for coverage; and after claims arise, to ensure that the policyholder receives the benefit of insurance coverage under “legacy” and all other potentially applicable policies.

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A New York appellate court ruled recently in Hanover Insurance Co. v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., 2018 NY Slip Op 02121 (1st Dep’t March 27, 2018), that an insurance policy did not cover an additional named insured over a personal-injury lawsuit arising from its alleged negligence because coverage was limited only to injuries caused by the named insured.  This decision again underscores, as we advised in a recent Blog Post addressing JP Energy Marketing LLC v. Commerce and Industry Insurance Co. (which can be found here), the importance of carefully evaluating the wording of “additional insured” provisions, which can vary widely in scope and effect.

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In a ruling earlier this month, an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge ruled in Scott, Blane, and Darren Recovery L.L.C., Anova Foods Inc. v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co., No. 17-12945-E, 2018 WL 1611256 (11th Cir. 2018), that an insurer did not have a duty to defend and indemnify its insured in a false marketing suit. Anova Food Inc. was sued by its competitor, King Tuna, for allegedly falsely asserting in its advertising that it treated tuna meat with a smoking process using filtered wood chips. King Tuna claimed that, in reality, Anova treated its tuna with synthetic carbon monoxide. In finding that King Tuna’s lawsuit did not trigger Auto-Owner’s duty to defend, the court held (1) that the lawsuit did allege a covered “advertising injury”; (2) that coverage was excluded under the policy’s “failure to conform” exclusion; and (3) coverage was barred by Anova’s untimely notice of the lawsuit.

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In an article recently featured in FC&S Legal, Hunton & Williams insurance lawyers Syed Ahmad and Patrick McDermott discuss ways to guard against waiver of the attorney-client privilege when cooperating with insurers providing Representations & Warranties insurance coverage. The full article can be found here.

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A New York trial court held last week in American Home Assurance Co. v. The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., Index No. 651096/2012 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Nov. 29, 2017) (Bransten, J.) that an insurance policy issued in 1966, to insure the construction of the World Trade Center, continues to provide insurance coverage over modern-day asbestos claims, with each claim constituting an individual occurrence.

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Whether a policyholder’s losses are “direct” or “indirect” can be coverage-determinative. Most financial institution bonds exclude “indirect” or “consequential” losses. A recent decision in Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Arch Ins. Co., No. CV C14-0545RSL, 2017 WL 5289547 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 13, 2017) addressed the issue of “direct” versus “indirect” losses in a dispute under a financial institution bond issued by Arch Insurance Company (Arch) to Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu). The court held that WaMu’s losses resulting from its purchase of fraudulent loans were “direct” losses, and that WaMu’s sale and contractual obligation to repurchase the fraudulent loans did not convert its losses from direct to indirect.

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An eye-popping settlement in Georgia serves as a cautionary tale for insurers who refuse to provide a straight answer when responding to a demand for policy limits and as a lesson for insureds dealing with recalcitrant insurers: Don’t just take “no” for an answer.

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In football as in life, the best defense is often a good offense. But, that adage does not always play well in litigation. In Riddell, Inc. v. Superior Court, No. B275482, 2017 WL 3614305 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 23, 2017), the California Court of Appeal blew the whistle on such a tactic, holding that an insurer could not use discovery tools in a coverage dispute with its policyholder in order to prejudice the policyholder's defense in an underlying lawsuit.

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Hunton & Williams Insurance Recovery partner, Michael Levine, was quoted in an August 29, 2017 article appearing in Business Insurance, regarding the rapid increase in lawsuits, and insurance issues, surrounding concussions in high school and college sports.  Among other things, the article discusses a coverage lawsuit filed by Great American Assurance Company against Conference USA in federal court in Dallas, Texas.  In the lawsuit, the insurer alleges that its policy did not afford coverage for football concussion injuries because the policy included a “limited event ...
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On August 29, 2017, my colleagues Lawrence J. Bracken, Michael Levine, and Geoffrey Fehling published an article in Law360 discussing the Ninth Circuit's recent decision rejecting coverage for the Los Angeles Lakers' director's and officer's (D&O) insurance claim arising from a fan's class action lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), based on a broadly-worded invasion of privacy exclusion in the Lakers' D&O insurance policy. A split Ninth Circuit panel held that "[b]ecause a TCPA claim is inherently an invasion of privacy claim, [the insurer] correctly concluded that [the claimant]'s TCPA claims fell under the Policy's broad exclusionary clause." The full article is available here.

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A federal judge has ordered an insurer to show cause why he should refrain from dismissing the insurer's case against an NCAA football conference over the availability of insurance for concussion-related lawsuits. Back in May, Great American Assurance Company filed a complaint against Conference USA, seeking a declaration that it need not defend or indemnify the conference against a lawsuit brought by a former football player. In the underlying lawsuit, the former player alleged that he suffered neurodegenerative disorders and diseases, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy ("CTE"), Alzheimer's disease, memory loss, mood swings, headaches, and anxiety stemming from repeated concussive brain impacts he sustained while playing for the University of Louisville. In the coverage action, Great American argues that a Limited Event Coverage endorsement added to Conference USA's policies did not include football as a covered event and therefore the policies do not provide coverage for "bodily injury" arising from football.

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Liability insurance policies generally have an exclusion barring coverage for claims brought by the insured’s own employees. Many times, especially in the hospitality industry, a liability insurance policy provides coverage for various different companies. A common question is whether claims brought by an employee of one insured against another insured are covered under such a policy.

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Following a game-ending ankle sprain in Monday night’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. ("OBJ") announced that he is considering the purchase of a $100 million insurance policy to protect against future injury. The protection does not come cheap – with premium around $600,000, according to a recent news account.  Nevertheless, OBJ apparently is considering the insurance in the event he cannot come to terms with the Giants on a new long-term contract.

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This past Monday, August 14, a federal magistrate judge explained to an insurer that “you can’t always get what you want” when he denied the carrier’s motion to dismiss claims arising from a July 4, 2015 Rolling Stones concert, concluding that the facts in the complaint allege a properly pled claim.

Time 5 Minute Read

Dick’s Sporting Goods (“DSG”) sued a Chinese insurer, PICC Property and Casualty Company Limited Suzhou Branch (“PICC”), seeking coverage under a products liability insurance policy for personal injury claims arising out of a burst exercise ball. In Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. v. PICC Prop. & Cas. Co. Ltd. Suzhou Branch, No. 2:16-cv-01635-DSC-RCM (W.D. Pa. July 28, 2017), a federal magistrate judge in Pennsylvania found that an insurance policy’s forum-selection clause required DSG to assert its claims in a Chinese court and, accordingly, recommended that DSG’s coverage claims be dismissed.

Time 1 Minute Read
In recent months, insurers have increasingly used New York rescission law as a means to not only deny coverage for specific claims, but also to void any protection an insurance policy may provide for other losses down the road. For example, H.J. Heinz Company recently found itself without coverage for a $30 million recall after its insurer rescinded its policy based on a misrepresentation in Heinz’s insurance application. In an article for FC&S Legal, Syed S. Ahmad, Tae Andrews, and Kelly Oeltjenbruns analyze recent rescission claims and illustrate the dangerous exposure—and ...
Time 1 Minute Read

Hunton & Williams insurance practice head Walter Andrews commented in a July 25, 2017, Law360 article concerning a New York federal court’s recent decision in Medidata Solutions, Inc. v. Federal Ins. Co., where the court found coverage for a $4.8 million “social engineering” loss that occurred after Medidata received fraudulent emails that caused accounting personnel to wire funds to a fake bank account in China. The decision, which was the subject of a July 24, 2017, Hunton blog post, focused on two main issues: (1) whether the fraudulent emails amounted to an infiltration of ...

Time 5 Minute Read

A federal judge in New York awarded summary judgment on Friday in favor of Medidata Solutions, Inc., finding that Medidata’s $4.8 million loss suffered after Medidata was tricked into wiring funds to a fraudulent overseas account, triggered coverage under a commercial crime policy’s computer fraud provision and funds transfer fraud provision. The award comes after District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr., ruled in March 2016 that additional expert discovery was needed concerning the manner in which the fraudsters manipulated Medidata’s computer systems.

The lawsuit, discussed in an August 18, 2016, Hunton & Williams blog post, arose after employees in Medidata’s finance department were deceived into transferring $4.8 million to a Chinese bank account based on emails that falsely appeared to come from a Medidata executive. Federal Insurance Company, a unit of Chubb Corp., insured Medidata under a policy providing coverage for, among other things, computer fraud, forgery and funds transfer fraud. Federal argued that Medidata’s claim was not covered because, among other things, there was no manipulation of Medidata’s computers and Medidata “voluntarily” transferred the funds.

Time 2 Minute Read

As discussed in prior posts, recent cyber events, such as the “Wanna Cry” ransomware attack, serve as important reminders to policyholders that cyber insurance should remain a priority for any business facing potential exposure from a cyber event. A recent report further underscores the potential impact of a major global cyber event, estimating that the resulting loss could exceed $53 billion worldwide, on par with the damage caused by catastrophic natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Earlier this week, Lloyd’s of London issued an emerging risk report, co-authored with risk-modeling firm Cyence, that examines several plausible cyber-risk scenarios to help insurers and policyholders understand cyber liability and risk exposures in an area that the report concludes is relatively underdeveloped compared with other classes of insurance.

Time 1 Minute Read

In the linked Client Alert, my colleagues, Lorie Masters and Brittany Davidson, discuss the recent New Jersey appellate court decision in Haskell Prop., LLC v. Am. Ins. Co., No. A-1452-14T2 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. June 29, 2017), where the court again confirmed that, in “occurrence” policies, an insured can assign its policies after a loss even if the policy has an anti-assignment provision.

 

Time 4 Minute Read

Hunton & Williams' Insurance Coverage lawyers Syed Ahmad, Andrea DeField and Jennifer White were featured in the Firm’s Recall Roundup, where they discuss recent noteworthy decisions on insurance coverage for product recalls:

Time 3 Minute Read

"Before the Court is, once again, the classic case of the insurer requesting relief from the consequences of the inartfully drafted, yet plain, terms of its insurance policy." So begins the Eleventh Circuit's recent opinion in Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., No. 16-14767, 2017 WL 1228550 (11th Cir. April 4, 2017), where the court held that the unambiguous language of Liberty's "Completed Work" exclusion did not bar coverage for injuries sustained by a motorist injured at a railroad crossing who later sued Norfolk Southern.

Time 1 Minute Read
Hunton & Williams insurance partner Syed Ahmad was recently quoted in Law360 regarding a recent trend in judicial decisions favoring policyholders. Ahmad addresses an apparent trend by courts to refuse to allow technical violations to void coverage under complex insurance policies. A link to the Law360 article containing Ahmad’s comments can be found at 5 Insurance Rulings You May Have Missed In The 1st Quarter.
Time 2 Minute Read

A California appellate court has affirmed a finding that a property insurer acted in bad faith when it searched for a reason to deny coverage for a fire loss and conducted an incomplete and non-objective investigation, even though the carrier subsequently paid the claim. The decision in Saddleback Inn, LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, No. G051121 (Cal. App. 4th, Mar. 30, 2017, which can be found here, illustrates the principle that an insurer’s conduct should be determined based on what the carrier knows when it refuses to pay the claim, and that subsequent developments cannot be used to salvage prior bad faith conduct.

Time 1 Minute Read

On February 22nd, Hunton insurance team partner Syed Ahmad and Mary Borja of Wiley Rein LLP will be speaking at the DC Bar’s CLE program “What Every Litigator Should Know About Insurance and How It May Impact Your Case Strategy.” The two hour class will discuss what steps an insured should take to protect claims, the role of insurance in defending and settling claims, and how to preserve attorney-client privileges. To learn more about the event, please visit: http://bit.ly/2k8SCQT.

Date and Time:
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 from 6 pm to 8:15 pm

Location:
D.C. Bar Conference ...

Time 1 Minute Read

Hunton & Williams Insurance practice head, Walter Andrews, provides a brief, 5-minute overview, of why members of the real estate industry should be thinking about and obtaining appropriate cyber insurance protection for their real estate operations.  Mr. Andrews explains why cyber insurance is different from other insurance products and requires a careful examination of the particular assets and exposures that are to be protected.

Time 3 Minute Read

On December 2, 2016, a Texas federal court ruled that the insurer for the predecessor of CVS Caremark Corp., Revco D.S. Inc. (Revco), must pay $15 million toward a $100 million settlement of a class action lawsuit for the injuries and deaths allegedly caused by a toxic vitamin solution, E-Ferol. Pursuant to the settlement, the plaintiffs received an assignment of Revco’s rights to pursue indemnity insurance coverage from the company’s excess insurer, Federal Insurance Co. (Federal). The Court granted, in part, the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment seeking indemnity, by declaring that Revco’s excess insurance policy covered the negligence claims based on its manufacturing and distributing of E-Ferol.

Time 2 Minute Read

A US District Court has ruled that a Professional Services Exclusion in a D&O policy does not bar coverage for suits alleging that a network of for-profit career colleges engaged in false marketing regarding the quality of education and job prospects that enrollees would receive. The decision in Education Affiliates Inc., et al. v. Federal Insurance Company, et al., stems from a series of lawsuits filed against the owner of the career colleges by former students and a subpoena and draft complaint served by the Florida Attorney General alleging that the colleges were deceptive in marketing their services to prospective students.

Time 2 Minute Read

A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the absence of a duty to defend does not foreclose the potential for indemnity coverage under primary and umbrella liability policies. The decision in Hartford Casualty Insurance Co. et al. v. DP Engineering LLC, stems from a March 31, 2013, incident where an industrial crane collapsed at a nuclear generating facility near Russellville, Arkansas, causing significant damage and injuries, including one death.

Time 2 Minute Read

The Eleventh Circuit confirmed in First Mercury Insurance Company v. Excellent Computing Distributors, Inc., No. 15-10120 (11th Cir. Apr. 20, 2016), that policyholders need not await adjudication of underlying liability litigation before obtaining a confirmation of coverage. The decision arose from a declaratory judgment action concerning the availability of insurance coverage for an underlying negligence suit against the policyholder. The district court dismissed the declaratory judgment action, finding it "inappropriate to exercise jurisdiction over an action seeking a declaration of the plaintiff's indemnity obligations absent a determination of the insureds' liability.” The court also noted that "significant factual questions necessary for a resolution of [the] declaratory judgment action are at issue in the state [court] action, and have yet to be resolved.” But the court did not identify the factual questions.

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