Posts tagged California.
Time 4 Minute Read

Policyholders purchase insurance policies as a safety net, promising financial protection in times of need. However, that safety net can disappear when an insurer rescinds a policy—a devastating consequence for potentially innocent policyholders. We recently published a post following a Fourth Circuit decision addressing this issue. The Ninth Circuit has also addressed this issue, most recently in the decision discussed below.

Time 5 Minute Read

Last week, a California federal judge held that a D&O liability insurer must advance subpoena-related defense costs on behalf of two former biotech directors and officers after the insurer could not provide conclusive evidence that the subpoenas alleged actual wrongdoing by the individuals after the company’s merger, as required to trigger the policy’s “Change in Control” exclusion. See AmTrust Int’l Underwriters DAC, Plaintiff, v. 180 Life Sciences Corp., et al., N.D. Cal. No. 22-CV-03844-BLF, 2024 WL 557724 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 12, 2024). The decision highlights the interplay of two significant D&O coverage issues—government investigations and M&A transactions—and underscores why policyholders must pay close attention to how their liability insurance policies may be impacted by a merger, acquisition, asset sale or similar deal.

Time 7 Minute Read

The Hawaii Supreme Court emphatically rejected insurer efforts to seek reimbursement of defense costs absent a provision in the policy providing for such reimbursement in St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company v. Bodell Construction Company, No. SCCQ-22-0000658, 2023 WL 7517083, (Haw. Nov. 14, 2023). The state high court’s well-reasoned decision rests on bedrock law regarding insurance policy construction and application, follows the nationwide trend of courts compelling insurers to satisfy their contractual obligations in full, and should carry great weight as other jurisdictions continue to debate the same issue.

Time 5 Minute Read

Extreme weather events—such as heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes—may create major protection gaps for insureds. In California, rising temperatures and massive heat waves have led the California Department of Insurance (the “Department”) to rethink risk solutions and insurance programs that protect the state’s communities from the risks associated with extreme heat. While the Department’s proposed solution applies only to coverage for local governments, Tribes, and public health agencies, it is a “hot” topic among many Californians, as insurance professionals and policyholders debate the Department’s proposed approval of parametric insurance.

Time 6 Minute Read

An insurer for University of Southern California recently filed suit in California federal court against the university and a former gynecologist at USC’s Student Health Center seeking to rescind USC’s insurance policy.  The dispute concerns North American Capacity Insurance Company’s coverage obligations for hundreds of sexual abuse-based lawsuits brought against USC.  NACIC seeks, among other things, to rescind a policy it sold to USC based on alleged failures by USC to disclose material facts during the policy application process.  NACIC is also seeking to avoid its coverage obligations under the policy’s “Prior Known Acts” exclusion.

Time 5 Minute Read

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

Time 4 Minute Read

From IRS rulings that “virtual currency” is taxed as “property” to an SEC lawsuit claiming that digital assets are “securities” under federal law, meteoric growth of the largely unregulated crypto industry has raised numerous questions about whether crypto-related risks are covered by insurance. In the latest example of the intersection of crypto and insurance, a California federal court recently held that cryptocurrency stolen from a Coinbase account did not constitute a covered loss under a homeowner’s insurance policy. The fundamental issue was whether the stolen crypto met the policy’s requirement for “direct physical loss to property” and, more specifically, whether the losses were “physical” in nature. The court ruled against coverage, reasoning that lost control of cryptocurrency is not a direct physical loss as a matter of California law.

Time 5 Minute Read

One of the most valuable aspects of liability insurance is defense coverage, which protects policyholders from significant costs to defend against and litigate claims that may never result in a judgment or settlement. Companies and their directors and officers can incur thousands or even millions of dollars in defending against claims that are resolved long before trial. Even after purchasing robust defense coverage and getting an insurer to defend a claim, however, companies may be surprised when months or even years later the insurer reverses its position and not only withdraws from the defense but also demands repayment of all defense costs paid to date. A recent case, Evanston Insurance Co. v. Winstar Properties, Inc. No. 218CV07740RGKKES, 2022 WL 1309843 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 14, 2022), shows the perils of insurer “recoupment” and underscores the importance of assessing insurer recoupment rights, if any, throughout the claims process.

Time 4 Minute Read

Recently, the Ninth Circuit dealt with a case involving a scenario that is becoming all too common. In Ernst & Haas Mgmt. Co., Inc. v. Hiscox, Inc., 23 F.4th 1195 (9th Cir. 2022), a property management company’s accounts payable clerk received several e-mails from her supervisor instructing her to pay some invoices. Unbeknownst to the clerk, these e-mails did not originate with her supervisor, but were actually part of a fraudulent scheme to elicit fraudulent bank transfers. The clerk paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in “invoices” before becoming suspicious but, by then, it was too late and the damage was done.

Time 4 Minute Read

Court dockets, both in the state and federal court systems, have seen a massive influx of COVID-19 business interruption insurance cases since the pandemic began in March of 2020.  More recently, cases have been moving more expeditiously through the federal courts, and the circuit courts are starting to issue decisions. Most recently, the Ninth Circuit has spoken and its decisions provide important guidance for policyholders with pending COVID-19 coverage cases in California federal courts.

Time 3 Minute Read

A California state court denied an insurer’s motion to dismiss Goodwill Industries of Orange County’s COVID-19 business-interruption claim after an apparent reassessment of how California’s federal courts have applied (or, rather, misapplied) California precedent to COVID-19 cases. The case is Goodwill Industries of Orange County, California v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., No. 30-2020-01169032-CU-IC-CXC (Cal. Super. Ct. Jan. 28, 2021).

Time 2 Minute Read

The California Supreme Court ruled that vertical exhaustion applied to determine how a policyholder could access its excess insurance policies. Montrose Chem. Corp. v. Superior Court, No. S244737 (Cal. Apr. 6, 2020). The case involved coverage for Montrose Chemical Corporation’s environmental liabilities at its Torrance facility under insurance policies issued from 1961 to 1985. Montrose and its insurers agreed that Montrose’s primary policies were exhausted but disputed the sequence in which Montrose could access the excess insurance policies.

Time 1 Minute Read

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 ...

Time 3 Minute Read

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).

Time 2 Minute Read

The California Department of Insurance recently approved three new insurance carriers to provide coverage for the emerging cannabis industry. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced last week that The North River Insurance Company, United States Fire Insurance Company, and White Pine Insurance Company will all begin offering surety bonds for cannabis businesses by the end of the month.

Time 4 Minute Read

The Supreme Court of California has ruled that a general liability insurer must defend an employer against allegations of employee misconduct, reinforcing the breadth of (1) what constitutes an “occurrence” under an employer’s commercial general liability (CGL) policy and (2) the duty to defend regarding claims for negligent hiring, retention and supervision. The opinion in Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Constr. Co., Inc. can be found here.

Time 3 Minute Read

On January 9, 2018, the Northern District of California held that the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California owed defense coverage to a pair of Scientology-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers for two lawsuits filed in Georgia and Oklahoma alleging that staff members had provided drugs and alcohol to patients, which resulted in injury and death. In Western World Ins. Co. v. Nonprofits Ins. Alliance of California, No. 14-cv-04466-EJD (N.D. Cal. Jan. 9, 2018), the court confirmed the broad scope of an insurer’s duty to defend under California law and rejected the insurer’s attempt to unreasonably expand the application of a “professional services” exclusion to avoid coverage.

Time 1 Minute Read

In an article published in Law360, Hunton & Williams LLP partners Walter Andrews, Malcolm Weiss, and I discuss two recent decisions in Tree Top Inc. v. Starr Indem. & Liab. Co., No. 1:15-CV-03155-SMJ, 2017 WL 5664718 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 21, 2017).  There, the Eastern District of Washington rejected an insurer's attempt to escape insurance coverage for a Proposition 65 lawsuit filed against juice-maker Tree Top Inc.

Time 2 Minute Read

Last week, Golden Bear Insurance Company became the first admitted insurer approved by the California Department of Insurance to provide insurance coverage for marijuana companies. Golden Bear will now begin offering first- and third-party insurance coverage specifically targeting marijuana companies in the state.

Time 1 Minute Read
Homeowners and businesses are beginning the painful recovery process following the devastating fires in California. Insurance money will be critical to that process. Read Lorie Masters' and Michael Levine's article in Law360 about how you can protect your right to access those critical funds.
Time 4 Minute Read

In Universal Cable Productions LLC, et al. v. Atlantic Specialty Insurance Co., No. 2:16-cv-04435 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 6, 2017), the United States District Court for the Central District of California held that a “war” exclusion barred insurance coverage for losses arising from NBCUniversal’s decision to postpone and relocate production of its action-thriller miniseries Dig, due to an armed conflict between Israel and Hamas.  During the conflict, Hamas and other militant groups fired over 4,000 rockets and mortar shells into Israel, forcing NBCU to halt filming in Jerusalem and move production to Croatia and New Mexico.

Time 2 Minute Read

On December 14, 2015, a federal court in California denied Evanston Insurance Company’s motion to dismiss Uber’s breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims. Evanston Insurance Company v. Uber Technologies, No. 15-cv-03988-WHA (Dec. 14, 2015). The case concerns Evanston’s duty to indemnify Uber for claims arising from two car accidents during which drivers were allegedly logged on to the Uber App.

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