Posts tagged Michael S. Levine.
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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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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.

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

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On October 16, 2019, Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance lawyers Michael S. Levine and Daniel Hentschel discussed insurance coverage issues concerning blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in an article published by IRMI (Insurance Risk Management Institute, Inc.). The full article is available here. In the article, the authors discuss the potential risks associated with the use of the revolutionary technology and the potential coverage gaps that may arise in certain insurance policies.

 

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Hunton Insurance Coverage practice partner Michael Levine will be speaking in an upcoming Strafford live webinar, "Depreciation of Labor in Property Insurance Claims: Guidance From Recent Cases," scheduled for Wednesday, October 30, 1:00pm-2:30pm EDT.

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Recap of Hunton Insurance Recovery Group presentations in August and September 2019 focusing on key risk management techniques and strategies for maximizing recoveries under corporate insurance policies and enforcing indemnity rights under technology, sales, services, outsourcing, and other commercial contracts:

  • John Eichman and Sergio F. Oehninger presented a seminar on Electronic Crime – Insurance Coverage for Cyber Attacks and Computer Fraud, Independent Community Bankers of America Webinar Series, September 24, 2019.
  • Sergio F. Oehninger presented seminars on ...
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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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Congratulations to Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP insurance recovery lawyer, Geoffrey Fehling, on his confirmation by the DC Bar Foundation’s Board of Directors to the organization’s Young Lawyers Network Leadership Council.

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A Florida district court recently held that an insurer wrongfully refused to defend a Miami-based strip club in a lawsuit filed by 17 models claiming that the club used their images to promote its business without their authorization. The insurer was required to defend the club for allegations of defamation under the policy’s personal and advertising coverage even though 16 of the 17 plaintiffs’ claims alleged conduct outside the covered policy period and no plaintiffs brought a cause of action for “defamation.” The decision highlights the broad duty to defend, in Florida and elsewhere, that policyholders should emphasize when pursuing coverage.

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Energy industry: is your insurance sufficient to handle a major cyber event? Larry Bracken, Mike Levine, and I address this question and more in our recent article for Electric Light & Power, found here.  In the article, we identify three major gaps in cyber insurance that we routinely see when analyzing coverage for energy industry clients. The first major gap is coverage for bodily injury or property damage caused by a cyber event. Most cyber insurance policies exclude coverage for both bodily injury and property damage, even if caused by a cyber event. Meanwhile, many commercial general liability insurance policies now exclude cyber-related risks, thus creating a gap in coverage for these losses. The second gap we identify is coverage for fines and penalties, including those issued under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Even where cyber insurance policies expressly purport to cover fines and penalties, it is unclear if these may be deemed uninsurable as a matter of public policy in certain jurisdictions. Finally, we identify a gap in coverage for business income losses when the insured’s network, or that of a vendor on which they rely, goes down. That coverage is a key component of a robust cyber program, but one that is typically only offered for an additional premium.

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On August 27th, a California Appellate Court held that an employment practices liability insurance policy’s “wage and hour” exclusion must be construed narrowly to bar coverage only for claims related to “laws concerning duration worked and/or remuneration received in exchange for work.” In doing so, the court made clear that “wage and hour” exclusions do not preclude coverage for claims that go beyond the employee’s actual remuneration received in exchange for work.

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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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The Seventh Circuit recently withdrew its controversial opinion that broadly interpreted an exclusion in Emmis Communications Corporation’s D&O policy, thereby barring coverage for losses in connection with claims of circumstances “as reported” under Emmis’ other insurance policy. The reversal, while very rare, was the correct result that alleviated concerns about the chilling effect the court’s broad reading of the exclusion may have on policyholders’ decisions to provide notice under all potentially applicable insurance policies.

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On Friday, August 9th, an Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s ruling and allowed an insureds’ claim for bad faith based on misrepresentations in the insurer’s quote for coverage to proceed to trial.

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In the August 2019 publication of Contract Management, Hunton insurance recovery lawyers Walter Andrews, Lorelie Masters, Michael Levine, and Latosha Ellis discuss how a robust insurance program can help government prime contractors mitigate potential financial risks associated with downstream data breaches or releases. In the article, the authors explain government prime contractors’ cybersecurity obligations under DFARS and other federal regulations. A copy of the article is here.

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In an article appearing in Law360 on August 8, 2019, Hunton insurance partner, Syed Ahmad, provided insight into three recent significant D&O insurance decisions.

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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 3, 2019, a Delaware jury determined that fourteen property insurers for Noranda Aluminum Holding Corp., an aluminum producer that filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations three years ago, owe Noranda over $35 million in time element losses that Noranda sustained as a result of two separate catastrophic incidents that occurred at its aluminum facility in 2015 and 2016.

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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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In the first part of a 3-part series, the Hunton insurance team discusses how policyholders can plan for this year’s hurricane season. Part 2 will address how to prepare a claim after a loss in order to maximize the potential recovery, including by taking photographs of any damage and tracking curfews that affect your operations.  Part 3 will discuss how to prevent denials of pending claims based on suit limitations periods.  The team’s goal is to provide a comprehensive outline that will guide policyholders before and after a loss.

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A federal appeals court reversed an auto parts manufacturer’s summary judgment win, construing a policy limitation on flood hazards to apply broadly to all types of losses, even though the limit “does not expressly say what losses it limits.” In Federal-Mogul LLC v. Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, manufacturer Federal-Mogul suffered more than $60 million in property and time-element losses following a 2011 flood in one of its factories in Thailand. Federal-Mogul submitted a claim to its insurer, but the insurer refused to pay more than $30 million because the flood occurred in a high hazard flood zone, to which the insurer argued a sublimit in the policy applied.

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Phishing has been around for decades.  But now, the long-lost ancestor claiming to be a foreign prince is stealing more than your grandmother’s savings.  Phishers are targeting corporations—small and big, private and public—stealing sensitive data and money.  When Policyholders take the bait, they had better have a tailored insurance policy to keep their insurers on the hook as well.

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In a June 18, 2019 article published in Law360, Hunton insurance team partner Syed Ahmad analyzed some of the most important insurance cases from 2019 so far.

Mr. Ahmad first touched on a pair of rulings from the Montana Supreme Court. In each, that court refused to find coverage for consent judgments negotiated by policyholders. The court in Abbey/Land v. Glacier Construction Partners rejected an underlying consent judgment because it was unreasonable and flowed from collusion between the underlying parties. Then, in Draggin’ Y Cattle Co. v. JCCS, the court reversed a trial court’s holding that an underlying consent judgment was presumptively reasonable, holding that the judgment did not deserve a “presumption of reasonableness,” because the insurer had not breached its duty to defend.

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On June 17, 2019, the First Circuit held that an insurer’s duty to defend was triggered because the underlying complaint set forth claims that required a showing of intent as well as claims that sought recovery for conduct that “fits comfortably within the definition of an ‘accident.’” In Zurich American Ins. Co v. Electricity Maine, LLC, Zurich sought declaratory judgment that, under a D&O policy, it had no duty to defend the insured, Electricity Maine, an electrical utility company being sued in the underlying class action. Zurich argued it had no duty to defend because the underlying complaint failed to allege that Electricity Maine engaged in conduct that qualified as an “occurrence” or that caused “bodily injury” under the terms of the policy. The First Circuit disagreed.

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A coverage dispute arising as a result of property damage from Hurricane Frances, which occurred in 2004, will continue following a Florida appellate court decision in an action brought against Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

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The City of Baltimore is the latest victim of increasingly common ransomware attacks. On May 7, 2019, unidentified hackers infiltrated Baltimore’s computer system using a cyber-tool named EternalBlue, developed originally by the United States National Security Agency to identify vulnerabilities in computer systems. However, the NSA lost control of EternalBlue, and since 2017, cybercriminals have used it to infiltrate computer systems and demand payment in exchange for relinquishing control. For instance, in Baltimore, the hackers have frozen the City’s e-mail system and disrupted real estate transactions and utility billing systems, among many other things. The hackers reportedly demanded roughly $100,000 in Bitcoin to restore Baltimore’s system. The city has refused to pay.

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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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Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance recovery partner, Lorie Masters, received a top “Band 1” ranking by Chambers and Partners in the Insurance: Policyholder category for the District of Columbia, and a “Band 2” ranking in the Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder – USA – Nationwide category.

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The Tennessee Supreme Court has refused to construe an ambiguous definition of actual cash value to allow for deduction of labor costs as part of depreciation calculations where that subset of repair costs are not clearly addressed in the policy. Despite the split of authority nationwide, the Tennessee case presents a straightforward application of policy interpretation principles to a common valuation issue in first-party property claims.

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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 Eleventh Circuit has reversed an insurer’s award of summary judgment after finding that uncertainty about when the alleged property damage occurred raised questions about whether the damage came within the scope of the “Your Work” exclusion. More specifically, the court found unclear whether the damage occurred before or after the contractor abandoned the job, thereby triggering an exception to the “Your Work” exclusion for damage to work that had “not yet been completed or abandoned.”  The decision illustrates how timing can be a critical factor when it comes to triggering coverage for work and completed operations.

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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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In a March 6, 2019 article appearing in Law360, Hunton insurance team partner, Syed Ahmad, commented on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent reinforcement of a general liability insurer’s broad duty to defend in West Bend Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ixthus Med. Supply, Inc.  In the article, Ahmad noted that “the ruling puts some real teeth into the broad duty to defend standard."  A deeper analysis of the decision is discussed in our March 8, 2019 blog post, in which we analyze the court’s reasoning behind its refusal to allow the insurer to escape its duty to defend by relying on the knowing ...

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Insurance partner Michael Levine is teaming up with Hunton’s Michael Perry and Adam Solomon and Jones Day’s Lisa Ropple to discuss cybersecurity litigation and insurance coverage presentation for the Massachusetts Bar Association. The presentation, sponsored by the MBA’s Complex Commercial Litigation Section, will take place on Wednesday, March 20th at 4:30 pm at the MBA’s office in Boston. Topics will include:

  • General litigation claims arising from cybersecurity incidents and defenses available to companies facing these claims.
  • Safeguards to prevent ...
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In an Expert Analysis recently published in Law360, Hunton insurance recovery attorneys Sergio Oehninger and Latosha Ellis discuss the many ways that event cancellation insurance can help mitigate loss caused by government shutdowns and other disruptive events.  A copy of the Expert Analysis can be found here.

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In an article appearing in CyberInsecurity News, Hunton insurance recovery partner, Michael Levine, comments on Zurich American Insurance Company’s attempt to invoke a so-called “war exclusion” as a basis for not paying business income losses suffered by snack food giant Mondelez International.  As Levine expains, so-called “war exclusions” have rarely been invoked and only then, in times of clear military or state-sponsored activity.  The Mondelez case will therefore focus on whether a computer attack was indeed an act of war and, importantly, whether and how Zurich ...

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Summary

Reversing a Texas Court of Appeals decision that allowed Anadarko’s Lloyd’s of London excess insurers to escape coverage for more than $100 million in defense costs incurred in connection with claims from the Deepwater Horizon well blowout, the Supreme Court of Texas held that the insurers’ obligations to pay defense costs under an “energy package” liability policy are not capped by a joint venture coverage limit for “liability” insured.  Anadarko Petroleum Corp. et al. v. Houston Casualty Co. et al., No. 16-1013 (Tex. Jan. 25, 2019).

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The doctrine of functus officio typically sets an arbiter’s award in stone: It forbids an arbiter from altering its award after the award has been rendered. But the doctrine has several exceptions. One such exception, known as the clarification exception, allows an arbitration panel to clarify an ambiguous final award. In Gen Re Life Corporation v. Lincoln National Life Insurance, the Second Circuit joined several other circuits in expressly adopting this exception, allowing an arbitration panel to clarify the meaning of its prior interpretation of rescission-clause in a ...

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Notwithstanding the absence of a congressional war declaration since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Zurich American Insurance Company has invoked a “war exclusion” in an attempt to avoid covering Illinois snack food and beverage company Mondelez International Inc.’s expenses stemming from its exposure to the NotPetya virus in 2017. The litigation, Mondelez Intl. Inc. v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., No. 2018-L-11008, 2018 WL 4941760 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., complaint filed Oct. 10, 2018), remains pending in an Illinois state court.

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2018 was a big year for insurance coverage cases, especially those involving social engineering phishing, spoofing and other schemes of trickery and deception.

The insurance recovery lawyers at Hunton Andrews Kurth have compiled their list of the top insurance cases of 2018.  A copy of the Review can be found here.

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Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance partner Michael Levine was recently interviewed by LegalTech News concerning Ohio’s recent adoption of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Insurance Data Security Model Law. The law, modeled after the New York State Department of Financial Services Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Service Companies Act, seeks to provide a framework for states to address risks and develop cybersecurity guidelines for insurance companies. Ohio became the second state, after South Carolina, to adopt the model law. As Mike ...

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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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Gatwick airport has been shut down since Wednesday night UK time due to the presence of multiple drones around the perimeter of the runway. A drone was first spotted Wednesday evening in the vicinity of Gatwick’s runway. After being briefly re-opened several hours later, the runway was shut down for good when several more drones were discovered. Given the public safety risk of attempting to shoot the drones down from the ground, law enforcement is instead focusing on identifying and apprehending the drone operators to ensure that the area is safe for air travel.

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In a recent Client Alert, Hunton insurance lawyers Mike Levine, Sergio Oehninger and Josh Paster discuss the impact of the Second Circuit’s recent opinion in Patriarch Partners, LLC v. Axis Insurance Co., where the Court confirmed that a warranty letter accompanying the policyholder’s insurance application barred coverage for a lengthy SEC investigation. The decision underscores the importance of understanding how a policy’s language and definitions impact the scope of information that policyholders must consider when representing facts and circumstances in ...

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Hunton Insurance Coverage attorneys Syed Ahmad and Geoff Fehling contributed to the firm’s Recall Roundup, a monthly publication canvassing consumer product and retail recalls and related litigation.  In the October issue, Ahmad and Fehling discuss two recent decisions with potentially broad implications.  In Lake Country Foods, Inc. v. Houston Casualty Co., No. 18-CV-734 (E.D. Wis. filed May 11, 2018), nutritional supplement manufacturer Lake Country Foods, Inc., (“LCF”) filed an insurance coverage complaint seeking to enforce its rights under a product contamination policy issued by Houston Casualty Company (“HCC”) arising from a salmonella contamination incident.  In the October Recall Roundup, Ahmad and Fehling discuss the potential impact that the insurer’s counterclaims seeking reimbursement of the approximately $1.2 million advance payment it made in response to the alleged salmonella contamination incident might have on the pending insurance recovery dispute.

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The Second Circuit recently held that competing “anti-concurrent cause” provisions in a commercial property policy present a potential ambiguity that could result in favor of coverage for losses sustained by Madelaine Chocolate after storm surge from Hurricane Sandy combined to cause substantial damage to Madelaine’s property and a resulting loss of income.

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In what appears to be a case of first impression, an Ohio trial court ruled in Kimmelman v. Wayne Insurance Group, that the crypto-currency, Bitcoin, constitutes personal property in the context of a first-party homeowners’ insurance policy and, therefore, its theft would not be subject to the policy’s $200 sublimit for loss of “money.”

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently construed the undefined term “advertising idea” in a case of first impression in the Commonwealth, holding that a footwear company’s insurers must provide a defense against an underlying claim alleging unfair use of a former Olympian’s name to promote a line of running shoes.

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Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance practice head, Walter Andrews, recently commented to the Global Data Review regarding the infirmities underlying an Orlando, Florida federal district court’s ruling that an insurer does not have to defend its insured for damage caused by a third-party data breach.

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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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Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance recovery associate, Andrea (Andi) DeField, was recently named among the 40 outstanding lawyers under the age of 40 in South Florida.  Andi has wasted no time using her status to help raise awareness and money for cystic fibrosis research.

On September 27, Andi attended the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation 40 Under 40 kickoff, an event held annually for the past 10 years to honor the best and brightest lawyers in the South Florida community while raising much-needed funds to support the Foundation’s mission.  The awards gala will be held on November 10 ...

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Hurricane Florence has yet to make landfall, but the storm has already wreaked havoc on this weekend’s college football schedule, concerts, and other events. West Virginia and NC State postponed their Saturday game indefinitely.  Rescheduling remains to be seen.  UCF and North Carolina cancelled their game outright, as did East Carolina and Virginia Tech.  Other teams relocated their games or changed dates and start times, with many offering free tickets to fans who can accommodate the last-minute changes.  The NFL also is keeping a close eye on the situation, as the storm could impact Sunday’s game between the Washington Redskins and the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field.  Meanwhile, non-sporting events also have been cancelled, including Alan Jackson’s concert at the North Charleston Coliseum, the Zac Brown Band’s concerts in Charlotte and Raleigh, and J. Cole’s Dreamville Festival, which alone will require the refunding of some 30,000 tickets.

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The Sixth Circuit recently upheld dismissal of KVG Properties, Inc.’s claims under a first-party property policy arising from damage to KVG’s office spaces due to tenants’ use of cannabis growing operations. We have been tracking the KVG case closely and previously reported on KVG’s initial appeal and Westfield’s retort on why the district court correctly dismissed the claims. Although there was no coverage for KVG under the particular facts of this case, the Sixth Circuit’s decision raises several important insurance issues for policyholders to consider and previews likely battlegrounds for future cannabis coverage disputes, many of which are precipitated by the variances in federal and state cannabis law.

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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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As reported yesterday in Business Insurance, Lloyd’s of London underwriters have agreed to insure digital currency storage company, Kingdom Trust Co., against theft and destruction of cryptocurrency assets.  The cover comes after almost a decade-long search by Kingdom Trust for insurance to cover its crypto-assets.  According to the BI, Kingdom Trust sees the availability of insurance as a key factor in bringing institutional investors into the marketplace by dispelling concerns about lack of traditional safeguards in the emerging crypto-asset space.

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The Sixth Circuit has rejected Travelers Casualty & Surety Company’s request for reconsideration of the court’s July 13, 2018 decision, confirming that the insured’s transfer of more than $800,000 to a fraudster after receipt of spoofed e-mails was a direct loss" that was "directly caused by" the use of a computer under the terms of ATC’s crime policy.  In doing so, the court likewise confirmed that intervening steps by the insured, such as following the directions contained in the bogus e-mails, did not break the causal chain so as to defeat coverage for “direct” losses.

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Hunton insurance recovery partner Syed Ahmad was recently asked by Insurance Law360 to opine concerning key insurance issues that are pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and ripe for decision this fall.  In the article, which can be found here, Ahmad notes with respect to the case of Secura Insurance v. Ray Duerr Logging LLC, case number 2016AP299, concerning whether damage tied to a wildfire constitutes one or multiple occurrences for coverage purposes, the Court of Appeals did a good job of focusing on the particulars of the claim at hand and not superficially relying on abstract labels like “cause test” or “effects test,” that are not all that illuminating, explaining that what one party characterizes as the “cause” of a loss can often be what another party deems to be “effect” resulting in the loss.

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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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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.

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In a recent post, we discussed the Sixth Circuit’s holding in American Tooling Center, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, No. 17-2014, 2018 WL 3404708 (6th Cir. July 13, 2018), where the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment for the insurer, finding coverage under its policy for a fraudulent scheme that resulted in a $834,000.00 loss. The insurer, Travelers, has now asked the Court to reconsider its decision.

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The Sixth Circuit, in American Tooling Center, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, No. 17-2014, 2018 WL 3404708 (6th Cir. July 13, 2018), reversed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurer in a dispute over coverage for a social engineering scheme. The policyholder, American Tooling, lost $800,000 after a fraudster’s email tricked an American Tooling employee into wiring that amount to the fraudster.

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In a July 9, 2018 article appearing in Insurance Law360, Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance recovery practice head, Walter J. Andrews, explains why the Second Circuit’s decision in Medidata Solutions Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co., No. 17-2492 (2nd Cir. July 6, 2018), affirming coverage for a $4.8 million loss caused by a “phishing” e-mail attack, is a common sense application of the plain language of Medidata’s computer fraud coverage provision.  As Andrews explained, “[c]learly, hijacking — or spoofing — email addresses constitutes an attack on a company's computer system for which a reasonable policyholder should expect coverage. A computer is a computer is a computer. Everyone knows that — except for insurance companies.”

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On July 6, 2018, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s summary judgment award 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. The decision in Medidata Solutions, Inc. v. Federal Ins. Co., 17-cv-2492 (2d Cir., July 6, 2018), confirms a ruling by District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr., in which the district court found that a fraudsters manipulation of Medidata’s computer systems constitutes a fraudulent entry of data into the computer system, since the spoofing code was introduced into the email system.

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A Connecticut court recently denied a motion to compel appraisal of a claim for coverage of a commercial property damage claim, holding that, where the insurance policy at issue provides for appraisal of disputes related to the value or quantum or a loss suffered—not the rights and liabilities of the parties under the policy—appraisal is premature. The decision relied on law that equates insurance appraisal to arbitration and follows a number of decisions holding that parties cannot expand the scope of appraisal clauses to resolve questions of coverage or liability where, as in this case, those issues are not supported by the applicable policy language.

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Attorneys from Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s Insurance Coverage practice group contributed to the Firm’s Recall Roundup by weighing in on a recently-filed product contamination insurance coverage dispute, Lake Country Foods, Inc. v. Houston Casualty Co., No. 18-CV-734 (E.D. Wis. filed May 11, 2018), where Lake Country Foods seeks an order permitting it to keep $1.2 million already paid by its insurer and requiring the insurer to provide coverage for the a product contamination claim involving alleged salmonella contamination of powdered whey protein processed in one of ...

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There was nothing ambiguous in former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s ruling in AIG Property Cas. Co. v. Cosby, No. 17-1505 (1st Cir. June 7, 2018), where, sitting by designation, Justice Souter ruled that AIG Property and Casualty Co. (“AIG”) must defend Bill Cosby in suits brought by eight women alleging that Cosby defamed them after they accused him of sexual misconduct.  Cosby held two insurance policies issued by AIG:  a homeowner’s policy and a personal excess liability policy (the “umbrella policy"”).  Under each policy, AIG has a duty to “pay damages [Cosby] is legally obligated to pay [due to] personal injury or property damage caused by an occurrence covered[] by this policy anywhere in the world . . . .”  Both policies define “personal injury” to include “[d]efamation” and require AIG to pay the cost of defending against suits seeking covered damages.  Both policies also contain so-called “sexual misconduct” exclusions.  The homeowner’s policy’s exclusion bars coverage for liability or defense costs “arising out of any actual, alleged[,] or threatened . . . [s]exual molestation, misconduct or harassment[,] . . . or . . . [s]exual, physical or mental abuse.”  The umbrella policy contained similar wording.  However, that policy also contained another “sexual misconduct” exclusion under the “Limited Charitable Board Directors and Trustees Liability” coverage part.  That exclusion applied more broadly to claims for damages “[a]rising out of, or in any way involving, directly or indirectly, any alleged sexual misconduct” (emphasis added).

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Darshan Karboj described a grisly scene during an October 2016 wedding. She alleges that, during the festivities, a photography drone operated by wedding photographers of Hollycal Production Inc. hit her in the head, causing major injuries, including the loss of an eye. Even though it had some insurance, Hollycal might be on the hook for the bills from this unfortunate incident.

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Drug-maker Pfizer and one of its excess insurers, North River, are in the middle of a contentious dispute regarding the proper forum for their coverage dispute over directors and officers liability insurance following both parties’ race to the courthouse to file competing lawsuits in 2015. Pfizer argues that its own preferred forum of Delaware (where Pfizer is incorporated) is correct, while North River counters that New York (where Pfizer’s headquarters and its broker are located) is the proper forum. The dispute, which involves competing motions in Delaware and New York courts, highlights the importance of both the timing and location of forum selection in litigating insurance coverage disputes.

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To follow up on our post last week recapping a recent Ninth Circuit decision regarding coverage for losses from a social engineering scheme, federal appellate courts continue to examine the coverage available for such losses. As Law360 highlighted, and as we previously reported (here, here, here, and here), appeals are pending in the Second, Sixth, and Eleventh circuits. These cases, some of which involve lower court findings of coverage while others do not, show that coverage for social engineering scams remains hotly contested, which means policyholders must carefully ...
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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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On April 17, 2018, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court decision finding that an exclusion barred coverage for a $700,000 loss resulting from a social engineering scheme. Aqua Star (USA) Corp. v. Travelers Cas. & Surety Co. of Am., No. 16-35614 (9th Cir. Apr. 17, 2018). The scheme involved fraudsters who, while posing as employees, directed other employees to change account information for a customer. The employees changed the account information and sent four payments to the fraudsters.

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The Daily Business Review, an ALM publication covering the south Florida business community, has named Hunton’s Insurance practice head, Walter Andrews, as a recipient of its 2018 Professional Excellence Award.   The award recognizes exemplary work by attorneys in the legal profession and community.  The award is a precursor to an event hosted by the Daily Business Review on May 30 at the Rusty Pelican in Miami, where one of this year’s three Professional Excellence Award winners will be named Attorney of the Year.  Congratulations, and good luck Walter!
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Hunton insurance recovery partner, Syed Ahmad, was recently asked to comment by Law360 on a Delaware Superior Court decision finding that state law does not preclude D&O insurance coverage for fraud-based claims against two Dole Food Co. executives, who are seeking to force several excess insurers to help pay for $222 million in settlements they reached to resolve stockholder suits accusing them of driving down Dole’s price before a 2013 take-private deal.  According the Ahmad, the ruling is likely to carry strong precedential effect due to the solid reasoning of the court’s decision, which is premised on the Delaware Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Whalen v. On-Deck Inc., which upheld the availability of coverage for punitive damages under Delaware law.

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Hunton & Williams Insurance Recovery partner, Lorelie (Lorie) S. Masters, has been selected to Law360’s 2018 Insurance Editorial Advisory Board, whose purpose is to analyze Law360's coverage of significant developments in the practice of insurance coverage law, and gain insight from experts in the field on how best to shape future coverage.  An article in Law360 discussing the Editorial Advisory Board and each of its members can be found here.

Congratulations to Lorie and the other members of the 2018 Editorial Advisory Board!

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A federal court in New Jersey recently held that the construction of an ambiguous policy term is not a matter suitable for judgment on the pleadings, thus denying AIG from avoiding coverage for a $67 million antitrust settlement. Rather, the only way to establish the meaning of an ambiguous term, the court explained, is to ascertain the intent of the parties, which requires “meaningful discovery.”

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Last month, we reported on the ongoing insurance coverage dispute between commercial landlord KVP Properties, Inc. and its property insurer, Westfield Insurance Company. The dispute arises from an October 2015 DEA raid on KVG-owned rental units in Novi, Michigan, which uncovered damage to the units related to the tenants’ marijuana growing operations. The arguments raised by KVG on appeal highlight a number of important marijuana-related coverage issues, which Westfield has now addressed in opposition.

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As we and our sister blogs have previously reported (see here, here, and here), the New York State Department of Financial Services enacted Cybsersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies, 23 NYCRR 500, on March 1, 2017. The first certification of compliance with this regulation is due today, February 15, 2018.

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Hunton & Williams Insurance Recovery leader, Walter Andrews, discusses the top insurance issues facing employers in Part 2, of a two-part video series.  Part 1 of the series is available here.
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In an article recently featured in Westlaw Journal Insurance Coverage, my colleagues Lorie Masters, Michael Levine, and I discuss significant cases and other insurance developments from 2017. The full article can be found here.
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With 2017 now in the rearview mirror, my colleagues Michael Levine, Lorie Masters, and I take the opportunity in this year’s annual review to reflect on the cases and other insurance developments that made the year memorable and will influence coverage decisions and disputes in 2018 and beyond.

Thank you and Happy New Year to all of our readers!

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In what has been described as a “watershed” cyber incident, hackers recently used sophisticated malware—dubbed Triton—to take control of a key safety device installed at a power plant in Saudi Arabia. One of the few confirmed hacking tools designed to manipulate industrial control systems, this new breach is part of a growing trend in hacking attempts on utilities, production facilities, and other critical infrastructure in the oil and gas industry. The Triton malware attack targeted the Triconex industrial safety technology made by Schneider Electric SE. The attack underscores the importance of mitigating this and other similar risks through cyber and other traditional liability insurance as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity program.

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The Fifth Circuit recently upheld the dismissal on summary judgment of a policyholder’s claim under a commercial crime insurance policy, affirming the trial court’s narrow interpretation of the terms “owned” and “loss,” concluding that the policyholder did not “own” the funds at issue or suffer a “loss” when it loaned those funds to the fraudsters. In so holding, the court ignored state court precedent concerning construction of those same terms.

In Cooper Industries, Ltd. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., No. 16-20539 (5th Cir. Nov. 20, 2017), Cooper invested its pension-plan assets into what proved to be a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Over the course of many years, Cooper invested more than $175 million into various equity and bond investments managed by fraudsters who used the investment funds in furtherance of the Ponzi scheme. After discovering the fraud, Cooper recouped a large portion of its investment and sought coverage from its commercial crime insurer for the unrecovered $35 million. The policy limited coverage to “loss” of property that Cooper “owned.” Neither term was defined in the policy.

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Insurance giant Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty S.E. announced yesterday that it has launched a blockchain prototype for a global captive insurance program. The project focuses on professional indemnity and property insurance for a customer with a captive insurance program with local subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Switzerland. Captive programs are complex programs used frequently by multinational organizations to self-insure their risks. These organizations create their own self-insurance programs, or ‘captives,’ which aggregate assets or insurance exposures from their global operations.  The programs collect premiums from each operating unit much like an ordinary insurer.  The captive entity likewise pays out claims as they arise. Allianz administers the captive insurer as a “fronting insurer,” using the insurer’s diverse multi-national network to ensure global reach and compliance.  Blockchain technology automatically connects all parties involved in the insurance program by using its distributed ledger technology, which is shared among all program participants and can record transactions and data entries. Updates and changes to the data are shared in real-time across all users. This creates a much faster, transparent, secure and efficient means of distributing information, conducting business processing and recording transactions across multiple parties.

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A recent article published by Securityroundtable.org highlights the vulnerabilities businesses face in a world of e-commerce and interconnectivity, and how proper planning through a tailored cybersecurity program that includes - among other components - appropriate insurance coverage for cyber risks can help prevent a successful attack and mitigate the financial impact should one occur. Whether the issue is prevention or risk mitigation, cybersecurity should be at the top of the corporate agenda. As discussed in the Securityroundable.org article, Lisa Sotto, chair of the ...
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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.
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On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granted Travelers’ motion to dismiss Posco Daewoo America Corporation’s suit for coverage under the computer fraud provision of its crime insurance policy.  Distinguishing itself from precedent like Medidata, Principal Solutions Group, Apache and American Tooling Center, Daewoo did not seek coverage for money fraudulently transferred or stolen from its own accounts.  Instead, Daewoo sought coverage for amounts that had been designated for payment to Daewoo by a third party supplier, Allnex, and stolen from Allnex after a criminal impersonated a Daewoo employee.  The Court held that the crime policy did not cover the lost sums because Daewoo did not “own” the money stolen from Allnex.

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In a recent Client Alert, Hunton & Williams insurance attorneys Lorelie Masters, Michael Levine, and Geoffrey Fehling discuss the importance of reviewing historical liability insurance policies and the potential benefit these policies can have on minimizing exposure to environmental hazards. In Cooper Industries, LLC v. Employers Insurance of Wausau, et al., No. L-9284-11 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Oct. 16, 2017), a New Jersey trial court held that an electrical products manufacturer was entitled to coverage rights under commercial general liability policies issued to a predecessor company for environmental remediation costs stemming from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup of a 17-mile stretch of the Passaic River in New Jersey.

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With Brexit approaching in March 2019, uncertainty remains over whether Britain and Brussels will reach an agreement to ensure that UK insurers can continue to pay out on policies after Britain leaves the European Union.  The uncertainty tied to Brexit serves as a broader warning to policyholders about the potential pitfalls that can occur when large-scale political or economic change occurs, and how that change can impact an insurer’s indemnity obligations under a pre-existing contract.  In the case of Brexit, it remains unclear whether UK and EU regulators will permit the ...

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The Sports Litigation Alert has published an article written by Hunton & Williams insurance recovery attorneys Lorelie S. Masters, Michael S. Levine, and Tae Andrews. The article, entitled "Recent Catastrophic Storms Emphasize the Need for Event-Cancellation Insurance for Professional Sports Organizations," originally ran in the October 13th issue of the Alert. In the article, Masters, Levine, and Andrews discuss the need for event-cancellation insurance for games and other events held in professional sports organizations' stadiums.

Read the article here.

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Corporate policyholders should carefully consider insurance coverage implications when structuring mergers, acquisitions, or other transactions that may impact available insurance assets. A New Jersey federal court recently granted summary judgment for a surviving bank asserting coverage rights under a D&O policy issued to an entity that dissolved in a statutory merger, based in part on the wording of the parties' merger agreement structuring the transaction in accordance with the New Jersey Business Corporation Act ("NJBCA").

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Obscured by the recent hurricanes ravaging the Caribbean, Florida and Texas, Mexico suffered its own natural disaster earlier this week with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.  Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by the quake.

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Congratulations to Hunton & Williams insurance recovery lawyer, Patrick McDermott, on his confirmation by the DC Bar Foundation’s Board of Directors to the organization’s Young Lawyers Network Leadership Council.  The DC Bar Foundation launched the Young Lawyers Network Leadership Council in November 2011 as an opportunity for younger attorneys to further the goal of access to justice within the community.  Members serve as ambassadors in order to promote DCBF’s mission and programs and to help raise additional resources to support local legal aid organizations.  Among ...

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A federal district court judge has dismissed one of a poultry farm's claims for "remediation costs" against its insurer with prejudice, but allowed the other to proceed. In Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc. v. Illinois Union Insurance Company, Rembrandt brought suit against its insurer for losses it sustained after a bird flu epidemic broke out at its farms in 2015.  Regulators ultimately ordered Rembrandt to quarantine its facilities and put down millions of birds, forcing Rembrandt to spend millions of dollars to purchase new chicks to repopulate its farms.

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Following the devastation of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has entered an emergency order regarding insurance procedures for residential property policies to assist policyholders and streamline the claims process. The insurance commissioner’s order provides standardized requirements for claims reporting, grace periods for payment of premiums and performance of other duties by policyholders, and temporary postponement of cancellations and non-renewals. These include:

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Hunton & Williams' Insurance Recovery Team Head, Walter Andrews, was spotlighted in an article published in the Houston Chronicle last week regarding insurance for losses from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. While the storms were devastating in their own unique ways – Harvey with extensive flooding; Irma with extreme wind and storm surge – both have substantially impacted local and national businesses.  As Andrews explains, "if you don't have any customers, or if they can't access your facilities, you don't have business.  Many businesses are facing vast amounts of lost earnings ...

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