Posts tagged CGL.
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 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

PFAS Regulation

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (“PFAS”) are a class of substances that have increasingly become the target of federal and state regulation in everything from drinking water, groundwater, site contamination, waste, air emissions, firefighting foam, personal care products, food and food packaging, and now consumer and commercial products. PFAS are widely-used chemicals that have the unique ability to repel both oil and water, which led to their application in many products including items such as stain and water-repellent fabric, chemical-and oil-resistant coatings, food packaging materials, plastics, firefighting foam, solar panels and many others. The carbon-fluorine bond is the strongest in nature, making these compounds highly persistent in the environment.

Time 3 Minute Read

In a recent opinion, the Northern District Court of Illinois reaffirmed the bedrock principle that an insurer’s duty to defend is broad and triggered by any allegations in a complaint that potentially fall within a policy’s coverage grant.  In Harleysville Pref. Ins. Co. v. Dude Products Inc., et. al., Case No. 21-c-5249 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 21, 2022), the insured, Dude Products, Inc., sought coverage from its insurer, Harleysville Preferred Insurance Company, against a class action lawsuit that alleged Dude Products intentionally and falsely marketed its wipes as “flushable” even though the product allegedly did not break apart and caused “clogs and other sewage damage.” 

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 5 Minute Read

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.

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 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 4 Minute Read

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.

Time 5 Minute Read

On February 13, 2020, a Texas federal court granted summary judgment in favor of coverage, finding the policyholder provided sufficient notice to its insurer of a potential claim for damages caused by allegedly contaminated proppant used at a well site in west Texas.  See Evanston Insurance Company v. OPF Enterprises, LLC, Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-2048 (S.D.T.X. Feb. 13, 2020) (Dkt. No. 51) .  The Court found that the policyholder’s notice of a potential claim was effective when provided to the insurer’s agent, even though it was not provided directly to the insurer itself.

Time 5 Minute Read

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

Time 3 Minute Read

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.

Time 2 Minute Read

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 ...

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, the Florida Supreme Court held that a Chapter 558 notice of construction defect constitutes a “suit” under a commercial general liability (“CGL”) policy sufficient to trigger the insurer’s duty to defend. The opinion can be found here, and our prior blog posts on this case here and here.

Time 2 Minute Read

In an article appearing in Law360, Hunton & Williams LLP’s insurance coverage practice group head, Walter Andrews, weighs in on the Florida Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Altman Contractors, Inc. v. Crum and Forster Specialty Insurance Co. As I discussed in my previous blog post on the Altman Contractors case, available here, the Florida Supreme Court held that a Chapter 558 notice of construction defect constitutes a “alternative dispute resolution proceeding” under the definition of “suit” in a commercial general liability (“CGL”) policy so as to possibly trigger the insurer’s duty to defend. There, the policy defined “suit” as including “[a]ny other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in which such damages are claimed and to which the insured submits with our consent.”

Time 2 Minute Read

In 2015 and 2016, we discussed certain provisions of the then drafts of the Restatement of the Law, Liability insurance, including the Duty to Cooperate, here, and Duty to Defend, here and here. In late May 2017, the American Law Institute met to approve the Proposed Final Draft—the culmination of over seven years of work on this project. Not surprisingly, many of the issues discussed in the Restatement have been hotly contested by insurers. While in many instances, the reporters simply opted for the majority rule, in a few instances, the Restatement may seek to move the law on key ...

Time 1 Minute Read
Commercial general liability policies typically provide coverage to insureds for losses resulting from property damage caused by an “occurrence,” usually defined in the policy as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same harmful conditions.” In the context of food recalls, however, the exact cause of the food damage, whether contamination, spoilage or something else, may be unknown. This creates uncertainty, and in turn, a coverage dispute, over whether the cause of damage was indeed accidental, and thus a covered ...
Time 3 Minute Read

The Eleventh Circuit recently held in G.M. Sign, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co., that, by denying coverage for a lawsuit filed against its insured, St. Paul waived the policy's notice requirements, thus obviating the need for the policyholder to provide notice of a second similar lawsuit arising out of the same acts and asserting the same claims. The policyholder, MFG.com, was sued in a class action filed in November 2008 by GM Sign, Inc., which alleged that MFG.com had sent numerous unsolicited faxes in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), among other things. After St. Paul denied coverage, MFG.com and GM Sign stipulated to the dismissal of the first lawsuit without prejudice in July 2009. The next day, GM Sign filed a new class action complaint against MFG.com alleging the same claims on behalf of the same class of plaintiffs as the first suit. MFG.com did not tender the second suit to St. Paul. As part of the $22.5 million settlement of the second suit, GM Sign took an assignment of MFG.com's right to payment from St. Paul and filed suit to recover insurance proceeds and for bad faith. St. Paul responded, contending that MFG.com breached the policy's notice provision by failing to provide notice of the second lawsuit.

Time 3 Minute Read

A California appellate court held on Tuesday in Navigators Specialty Ins. Co. v. Moorefield Constr., Inc., 2016 WL 7439032, __ Cal.Rptr.3d __ (Dec. 27, 2016), that a general liability insurer must cover amounts paid as attorneys’ fees in an underlying settlement even where no duty to indemnify was owed under the policies. The coverage was required under the policies’ Supplementary Payments provision – an often overlooked and underutilized section of the CGL policy that can be of significant value to policyholders.

Time 3 Minute Read

The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently found an excess insurer liable for environmental costs related to a leak in an insured’s pipeline.  In doing so, the court rejected the insurer’s argument that liability for the costs should be spread among policies issued by other insurers spanning nearly three decades.  The opinion is available here.

Time 2 Minute Read

In Cypress Point Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Adria Towers, L.L.C., 076348, 2016 WL 4131662, at *8 (N.J. Aug. 4, 2016), a condominium association sued its general contractor for rainwater damage to the condominium complex, after the project was completed, which was allegedly the result of defective work performed by subcontractors. The condominium association also sued the developer's CGL insurers, seeking a declaration that claims against the developer were covered by the policies. The trial court granted summary judgment to the insurers, finding that there was no "property damage" or "occurrence," as defined and required by the policies, to trigger coverage. The condominium association appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed, concluding that "consequential damages caused by the subcontractors' defective work constitute[d] 'property damage' and an 'occurrence' under the polic[ies]."

Time 1 Minute Read
The Supreme Court of Georgia recently ruled that the pollution exclusion in a CGL policy applied to a personal injury claim arising from ingestion of lead-based paint, rejecting an earlier court opinion that lead-based paint was “not clearly a ‘pollutant’ as defined in the policy.”  Read more here.
Time 1 Minute Read
An article by Hunton lawyers Walter Andrews and Mike Levine, titled Insurance Planning for 2016: Top Ten Real Estate Liability Concerns, was recently published in the Spring 2016 issue of The Real Estate Finance Journal. The article addresses ten recurring liability concerns facing real estate professionals, investors, developers, lenders, owners and managers, and the associated insurance issues. The article addresses ways commercial insurance can be used to mitigate potential liability for those involved in complex real estate transactions. Andrews and Levine, along with ...
Time 2 Minute Read

Last week, two blind customers sued Sweetgreen, a D.C.-based salad chain, alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and sections of New York’s Human Rights statute. In the Complaint, the customers claim that Sweetgreen’s online ordering system “prevents blind customers from customizing and placing their orders in the same way as sighted customers can.” Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability at “places of public accommodations,” like restaurants, movie theaters, schools, and recreation facilities. Courts are split about whether “places of public accommodation” are limited to actual physical structures or include websites that are part of an integrated merchandising effort. The tide is pressing toward the broader reading of the statute, emboldened in part by the Department of Justice’s long-awaited website accessibility regulations (now set to be published in fiscal year 2018).

Time 3 Minute Read

Globalization has inspired the development of cross-border business activities, as companies across several industries seek new markets for their goods and services.  The dynamic rewards have been accompanied by a corresponding increase in novel risks, and those who rely on traditional risk assessment mechanisms have often been left unnecessarily exposed.

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