Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

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This dispute arose from a 2013 oil well blowout on the HERCULES 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. After the rig's charterer filed suit raising products liability claims against a refurbisher of the rig's blowout-prevention components, counterclaims and third-party claims ensued. The district court subsequently granted a series of summary judgments, based both on contractual indemnity and also on the merits of the liability claims. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Hercules' duty to defend, hold harmless, and indemnify Axon; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Walter's duty to directly indemnify Axon; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Walter's duty to indemnify Hercules for Axon's claims; vacated the district court's order excluding Bellemare's testimony; vacated the district court's orders excluding the expert reports of Sones, Bourgoyne, Williams, Rusnak, Bellemare, and Adair, as well as the orders excluding the affidavits of Sones and Bourgoyne; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the causation and "unreasonably dangerous condition" prongs of the Louisiana Products Liability Act; vacated the district court's final judgment and fee orders; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's v. Axon Pressure Products Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case before the Vermont Supreme Court was the meaning of “date of loss” for the purpose of an insurance policy’s condition that any action be commenced within one year after the “date of loss.” The trial court concluded that the insurance provision requiring that an action be brought “within one year after the date of loss” was ambiguous and had to be interpreted against insurer to mean that the one-year period began to run when insurer breached its obligations (i.e., at the time homeowner received final, allegedly insufficient, payment from insurer). The court accordingly denied insurer summary judgment and granted partial summary judgment to homeowner. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded the provision was unambiguous in requiring suit to be brought within one year of the date of the occurrence giving rise to coverage and reversed the partial summary judgment for homeowner. View "Brillman v. New England Guaranty Insurance Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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In May 2015, the Chickasaw County School District entered into a contract with Sullivan Enterprises, Inc., for window restoration work on the Houlka Attendance Center. In July 2015, during construction, a fire began that completely consumed the attendance center. Liberty Mutual, the school district’s insurer, paid the school district $4.3 million for the damage to the building. Liberty Mutual then filed a subrogation suit against Sullivan Enterprises, Fowlkes Plumbing, LLC, and Quality Heat & Air, Inc. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi found that the waiver of subrogation did not apply to damages to the “non-Work” property, thus Liberty Mutual could proceed in litigation as to “non-Work” property damages. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed an interlocutory appeal and certified a question to the Mississippi Supreme Court regarding whether the subrogation waiver applied to “non-Work” property. The Supreme Court determined that based on the plain meaning of the contract language, the waiver of subrogation applied to both work and non-work property. View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Russell, Daniel, and Carson co-owned a business. Under a succession plan, the company was to purchase life insurance. If a shareholder died, the company would use the proceeds to buy the deceased shareholder’s stock. Daniel died. The company received insurance proceeds and kept the money. Elizabeth, Daniel’s widow, sued Russell and Carson for conversion and breach of fiduciary duty. A Kansas court issued a judgment against Russell for $822,900.77. Russell and Carson had expected Liberty to defend and indemnify them under their Directors, Officers and Company Liability Coverage and Fiduciary Liability Coverage. Liberty cited a “Personal Profit Exclusion” for claims based upon "gaining ... any profit, remuneration or financial advantage” to which they are “not legally entitled” and a “Contract Exclusion” regarding claims "attributable to any actual or alleged liability under or breach of any contract.” Russell and Carson sued Liberty in Missouri state court for bad-faith. Elizabeth joined the suit. Liberty, a corporate citizen of Massachusetts and Illinois, removed the case to federal court. Russell and Carson sought remand, arguing that in “direct action[s]” against insurers, the insurer takes the citizenship of those it insures, 28 U.S.C. 1332(c)(1); if the Trust’s equitable garnishment claim was a direct action, Liberty shared Russell’s Missouri citizenship. The district court held that the equitable garnishment claim required Russell as a defendant, but Russell’s bad-faith claim required him as a plaintiff. The court severed the suit: Russell and Carson could sue for bad-faith failure to defend and indemnify; the Trust could separately sue Liberty and Russell. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on the bad faith claim. Because the Missouri statutory claim is not a direct action, complete diversity exists. The district court had jurisdiction over the bad-faith claim. The policy exclusions applied. View "Russell v. Liberty Insurance Underwriters, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Wayne Bourgeois contracted mesothelioma, he filed suit against Chevron and other defendants in state court. Chevron settled with Bourgeois for $550,000, and then sought contractual indemnity from Jacobs Field Services. The district court determined that Chevron was entitled to the full value of the settlement as well as about $256,000 in attorney's fees and costs. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that Chevron easily met its burden to establish potential liability as the governing rule, and the district court did not err in setting potential liability as the operative standard; Chevron established, as a matter of law, that it was potentially liable to Bourgeois; and the district court did not err by finding that the relevant indemnity provision unambiguously entitled Chevron to indemnity in the Bourgeois suit and attorney's fees and "ordinary litigation costs." View "Chevron Oronite Co., LLC v. Jacobs Field Services North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of an insurer on the grounds that the plaintiff's contractual assignment was unenforceable, holding that a residential contractor acting as an unlicensed public adjuster cannot enforce its post-loss contractual assignment of insurance benefits against the homeowner's insurer. The contractor in this case represented homeowners as an assignee of their insurance claim for storm damage to their home. The district court concluded that the contractor's contractual assignment was invalid because the contractor acted as an unlicensed public adjuster. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in ruling that the contractor acted as an unlicensed public adjuster and that the assignment contract was void and unenforceable under Iowa Code 103A.71(5). View "33 Carpenters Construction, Inc. v. IMT Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for an insurer on the grounds that the plaintiff's contractual assignment was unenforceable, holding that a residential contractor acting as an unlicensed public adjuster cannot enforce its postloss contractual assignment of insurance benefits against the homeowner's insurer. Iowa Code 103A.71(5) declares void contracts entered into by residential contractors who perform public adjuster services without the license required under Iowa Code 522C.4. The contractor in this case represented homeowners as an assignee of their insurance claim for hail damage to their home. The district court concluded that the contractor's contractual assignment was invalid under section 103A.71(5) because the contractor acted as an unlicensed public adjuster. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in ruling that the contractor acted as an unlicensed public adjuster and that the assignment contract was unenforceable and void under Iowa law. View "33 Carpenters Construction, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Cincinnati Insurance Company in this insurance dispute, holding that, for the reasons set forth in 33 Carpenters Construction, Inc. v. State Farm Life & Casualty Co., __ N.W.2d __ (Iowa 2020), an assignment contract entered into by a residential contractor acting as an unlicensed public adjuster is void under Iowa Code 103A.71(5). After a hailstorm and windstorm damaged Gregg Whigham's residence, Whigham and 33 Carpenters Construction, Inc. entered into an agreement under which 33 Carpenters would repair the damage in exchange for Wigham's insurance proceeds. A 33 Carpenters representative and Whigham then signed an assignment of claim and benefits. Later, 33 Carpenters sued Whigham's insurer, Cincinnati, claiming that Cincinnati breached the insurance policy by failing to by 33 Carpenters all benefits due and owing under the policy that had been assigned to it. The district court granted summary judgment to Cincinnati, concluding that the purported assignment of Whigham's insurance claim was invalid. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because 33 Carpenters was operating as an unlicensed public adjuster, the assignment contract was unenforceable. View "33 Carpenters Construction, Inc. v. Cincinnati Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Travelers won summary judgment in this duty-to-defend insurance dispute with its insured, KLA. The superior court concluded that the language of the commercial liability insurance policies, which covered claims for “malicious prosecution,” could not have created an objectively reasonable expectation that Travelers would defend a “Walker Process claim” against KLA. The Walker Process claim that KLA tendered to Travelers alleged that KLA had fraudulently procured a patent and used that patent to attempt to monopolize the market for a product. KLA argued that it was objectively reasonable for it to expect the “malicious prosecution” coverage in its policies to extend to this Walker Process claim. The court of appeal affirmed. Coverage language is construed as of the time of issuance of the policy, so the construction of that language cannot depend on the precise allegations made in a subsequent complaint. The history of prior litigation between the parties did not change the basis for this claim into one for malicious prosecution because there were no allegations of any legal proceedings involving the patent. View "Travelers Property Casualty Co. of America v. KLA-Tencor Corp." on Justia Law

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Of two people injured in a car wreck in April 2012, one was a Medicare beneficiary who received her benefits from an MAO-Florida Healthcare Plus, which later assigned its claims to appellant MSPA Claims 1, LLC. The other party involved in the accident was insured by appellee Kingsway Amigo Insurance. The Medicare beneficiary obtained medical treatment for her accident-related injuries between April 29, 2012 and July 26, 2012, and Florida Healthcare made $21,965 in payments on her behalf. On March 28, 2013, the beneficiary settled a personal-injury claim with Kingsway and received a $6,667 settlement payment. The issue this case presented for the Eleventh Circuit’s review centered on the timeliness requirement with which the government had to comply as a prerequisite to filing suit to seek reimbursements that it made on behalf of the Medicare beneficiary, and whether filing suit beyond a statutory three-year period beginning on the date on which medical services were rendered was fatal to the government’s claim. The district court held that MSPA’s claim was stale because it didn’t comply with what the court (somewhat confusingly) called “the three-year limitation requirement.” The Eleventh Circuit disagreed and reversed. “The Medicare Secondary Payer Act’s private cause of action, and our cases interpreting it lead us to conclude that the Act’s claims-filing provision, doesn’t erect a separate bar that private plaintiffs must overcome in order to sue. A closer look at the claims-filing provision’s text and the Act’s structure confirms that conclusion. Accordingly, the district court erred in granting Kingsway’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.” View "MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Kingsway Amigo Insurance Company" on Justia Law