Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries
Auburn Woods I Homeowners Assn. v. State Farm General Ins. Co.
Auburn Woods I Homeowners Association (HOA) and its property manager Frei Real Estate Services (FRES), tendered the defense of two lawsuits filed against them by a member of HOA under HOA’s condominium/association policy. HOA’s insurer, State Farm Insurance Company (State Farm), denied the tender for the first lawsuit, but accepted defense of the second lawsuit as to HOA only. HOA and Al Frei, individually and doing business as FRES, sued State Farm and its agent Frank Lewis for, among other things, breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court entered judgment in favor of State Farm and Lewis after a bench trial. HOA and Frei appealed, contending: (1) the trial court erred in concluding that State Farm did not owe a duty to defend HOA and FRES against the first lawsuit; (2) HOA had a reasonable expectation that FRES would be covered under the directors and officers liability provision of its policy; (3) State Farm failed to reimburse HOA for post-tender expenses related to the second lawsuit; (4) Lewis breached his contract with HOA by failing to include FRES as an additional insured and failing to alert HOA and Frei that itwas not possible to include FRES under the directors and officers liability provision; (5) State Farm breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in HOA’s policy; and (6) the trial court erred in denying HOA and Frei’s motion to tax the expert witness fees State Farm and Lewis sought to recover under Code of Civil Procedure section 998. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) State Farm did not have a duty to defend HOA and FRES against the first lawsuit; (2) HOA and Frei failed to establish that FRES should have been deemed an insured under the directors and officers liability provision; (3) substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that HOA did not present State Farm with a clear statement of the amount of attorney’s fees and costs HOA incurred in defending against the second lawsuit; (4) HOA and Frei did not establish the alleged contract between Lewis and HOA; (5) HOA and Frei failed to demonstrate error with regard to their breach of implied covenant cause of action; and (6) State Farm and Lewis’s pretrial offer to compromise was effective to trigger cost shifting under section 998. View "Auburn Woods I Homeowners Assn. v. State Farm General Ins. Co." on Justia Law
In Re Solera Insurance Coverage Appeals
Insurance providers asked the Delaware Supreme Court whether certain costs incurred in connection with an appraisal action under 8 Del. C. 262 were precluded from coverage under the primary and excess directors’ and officers’ insurance policies (the “D&O Policies”) issued to Solera Holdings, Inc. (“Solera”). An affiliate of Vista Equity acquired Solera in 2016. That transaction gave rise to litigation, including an appraisal action. Solera requested coverage under the D&O Policies for the Appraisal Action. The insurers denied the request. Solera then filed suit against the insurers for breach of contract and declaratory judgment, seeking coverage for pre-judgment interest and defense expenses incurred in connection with the Appraisal Action. However, Solera did not seek coverage for the underlying fair value amount paid to the dissenting stockholders, upon which the pre-judgment interest was based. The issuer of the primary policy settled, and the excess policy insurers moved for summary judgment. The superior court denied the motion, interpreting the policy to hold that: (1) a “Securities Claim” under the policy was not limited to a claim alleging wrongdoing, and the Appraisal Action was for a “violation” under the Securities Claim definition; (2) because the “Loss” definition was not limited by any other language, the policy covered pre-judgment interest on a non-covered loss; and (3) as to defense expenses, Delaware law implied a prejudice requirement in insurance contract consent clauses, and Solera’s breach of the consent clause did not bar coverage for defense expenses absent a showing of prejudice. The Insurers appealed, contending that the superior court erred in holding that the Appraisal Action could be covered under the D&O Policies for a violation of a “Securities Claim.” The Supreme Court disagreed with the superior court's determination the Appraisal Action was for a “violation,” concluding the Appraisal Action did not fall within the definition of a “Securities Claim.” Because the Appraisal Action was not a Securities Claim, the remaining issues were moot. View "In Re Solera Insurance Coverage Appeals" on Justia Law
Truck Insurance Exchange v. AMCO Insurance Co.
In the underlying action, two restaurant patrons filed suit against the restaurant owner and his landlords after a vehicle accident caused a car to crash through the restaurant, injuring the patrons. The patrons alleged that the property lacked safety measures that would have protected them from this type of injury. Summary judgment was granted for the restaurant owner but denied for the landlords, who later settled with the patrons.The landlords' insurer, Truck Insurance, then filed suit against the restaurant's insurer, AMCO, for equitable contribution. The "additional insured" provision in the restaurant's AMCO policy covered the landlords' liability "arising out of" the restaurant owner's "use" of the premises. The trial court found that the landlords' liability arose from the restaurant owner's use of the premises and was therefore covered under the AMCO policy.The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the phrase "arising from" in a general liability insurance policy requires only a minimal causal connection, which existed here, and the respective liability of the parties is irrelevant to the additional insured provision. Because AMCO failed to assert that the trial court's 50 percent apportionment was erroneous, the court found this argument forfeited. View "Truck Insurance Exchange v. AMCO Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Kaiser v. Allstate Indemnity Co.
In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Allstate Indemnity Company, holding that property loss from Plaintiffs' tenants' producing or using methamphetamine indoors was not a covered peril under the insurance policy.Plaintiff filed an insurance claim alleging that his tenants damaged his rental house by producing or using methamphetamine indoors. Allstate denied the claim. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint against Allstate alleging breach of contract and bad faith. The district court granted summary judgment for Allstate, concluding that Plaintiff's property loss was excluded from coverage under certain portions of the insurance policy and was not covered by other portions of the policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's assignments of error were without merit. View "Kaiser v. Allstate Indemnity Co." on Justia Law
State ex rel. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania v. Hummel
The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from enforcing its sua sponte order dismissing count three of Respondents' complaint and finding that West Virginia law applied to all of Respondents' bad faith claims but declined to extend the writ to find that Georgia law applies to the entire dispute, holding that a writ of prohibition was not the proper avenue for such relief.After Petitioners denied insurance coverage for certain damages Petitioners filed a declaratory judgment action in the State of Delaware to determine their rights and responsibilities under the relevant insurance policies. Respondents subsequently filed the underlying complaint asserting five separate counts, including breach of contract and bad faith under Georgia law (count three). Petitioners sought to dismiss the West Virginia proceeding. The circuit court denied the motion but, sua sponte, dismissed count three. Petitioners then filed the instant petition. The Supreme Court granted the writ as moulded, holding (1) the circuit court exceeded its lawful authority when it sua sponte dismissed count three of the complaint and held that West Virginia law applied to Respondents' bad faith claims; and (2) this Court declines Petitioners' invitation to find that the Georgia choice-of-law provisions in the policies govern this action. View "State ex rel. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania v. Hummel" on Justia Law
Kramer v. Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting class certification in this action alleging breach of contract and violation of Montana's Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA), Mont. Code Ann. 33-18-101 et seq., holding that a sufficient factual basis was established to justify certification of the classes.Plaintiffs filed this action against Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Company (FFM), alleging that FFM breached its insurance contract with Plaintiffs and all other insureds by failing to include general contractor overhead and profit in the cost to repair or replace Plaintiffs' property. The district court granted Plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that common questions of law predominate the litigation and support certification of the class; but (2) certain conclusions reached by the district court were a "bridge too far" at this stage of litigation. View "Kramer v. Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law
DaVita, Inc. v. Marietta Memorial Hospital Employee Health Benefit Plan
Beginning in 2017, DaVita provided dialysis treatment to Patient A, who was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Patient A assigned his insurance rights to DaVita. Through August 2018, the costs of Patient A’s dialysis were reimbursed by the Employee Health Benefit Plan, governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), at its bottom tier, which applied to providers who are “out-of-network.” All dialysis providers were out-of-network. While most out-of-network providers are reimbursed in the bottom tier based on a “reasonable and customary” fee as understood in the healthcare industry, dialysis providers are subject to an “alternative basis for payment”; the Plan reimburses at 87.5% of the Medicare rate. Patient A was exposed to higher copayments, coinsurance amounts, and deductibles and was allegedly at risk of liability for the balance of what was not reimbursed . The Plan identified dialysis as subject to heightened scrutiny, which allegedly incentivizes dialysis patients to switch to Medicare. Patient A switched to Medicare. DaVita and Patient A sued, alleging that the Plan treats dialysis providers differently from other medical providers in violation of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSPA) and ERISA. The Sixth Circuit reversed, in part, the dismissal of the claims. A conditional payment by Medicare is required as a precondition to suing under the MSPA’s private cause of action; the complaint sufficiently alleges such a payment. DaVita plausibly alleged that the Plan violates the nondifferentiation provision of the MSPA, resulting in denials of benefits and unlawful discrimination under ERISA. View "DaVita, Inc. v. Marietta Memorial Hospital Employee Health Benefit Plan" on Justia Law
Downing v. Country Life Insurance Company
In October 2015, Amy Downing purchased a life insurance policy from Country Life Insurance Company. She purchased both an “executive whole life” policy that would pay a flat amount of $500,000 to her beneficiaries upon her death and a “Paid-Up Additions Rider” (PUAR) that provided an additional death benefit and an investment opportunity. Although Amy's father Tom worked for Country, another employee, Robert Sullivan, met with Amy and Tom to describe the terms of the policy. Amy asked Sullivan why she needed one and a half million dollars in insurance coverage because it was a larger benefit than she expected to need and it required higher yearly premiums. Sullivan explained that although she might not need the large death benefit, the structure of the PUAR provided an investment opportunity because it maximized the policy’s cash value. Sullivan later testified that he never represented to Amy that the death benefit associated with the PUAR was a flat amount. After paying the premiums for a year, Amy informed her parents that she intended to abandon the policy and withdraw its existing cash value. Her mother Kathleen decided to look into the policy as an investment. Kathleen decided to take over payment of the premiums on Amy’s life insurance policy, including the PUAR, as an investment. With Tom’s assistance, Amy assigned her policy to Kathleen. Four months later, on January 27, 2017, Amy died in an accident. Her death occurred in the second year of her policy coverage. Country paid the death benefit of $500,000 on Amy’s whole life policy. Country also paid $108,855 on Amy’s PUAR. Kathleen sued, alleging that she was entitled to $1,095,741 on Amy’s PUAR, minus the $108,855 already paid. Judgment was rendered in favor of Country, and Kathleen appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the superior court did not err in its interpretation of the insurance policy at issue, and affirmed the decision. View "Downing v. Country Life Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Glover v. Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co.
In this insurance dispute stemming from a fatal car collision, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Insurer, holding that the decedent's estate was entitled to summary judgment on the issues of whether the decedent was an "insured person" and the availability of $25,000 in further UIM coverage under the decedent's parents' Allstate policy.Shelina Glover died in a car accident. The insurers of the two responsible drivers paid policy limits, and Glover's estate received separate settlements for underinsured-motorist (UIM) coverage from Glover's own carrier and from that of Glover's husband, who was driving the vehicle on the day of the accident. The Estate requested further UIM coverage under Glover's parents' Allstate policy. The trial court granted summary judgment for Allstate, concluding that the policy's offset and anti-stacking provisions barred the Estate from recovery because the amount the Estate received from other insurers exceeded the limits under the policy. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) Glover was an "insured person" under the policy; and (2) the Estate's UIM settlements were not offset against the policy's UMI limit, and therefore, the Estate had an additional $25,000 UIM coverage available to it under the Allstate policy. View "Glover v. Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Dones v. Life Insurance Co. of North America
While employed by Alameda County and on a medical leave of absence, Johnson enrolled online in supplemental life insurance coverage under a LINA group insurance policy. She remained on leave on the policy’s effective date and died six months later, without returning to work. When her beneficiary claimed benefits, LINA denied coverage based on a policy provision stating the insurance would not become effective if the employee was not in “active service” on the effective date. Johnson’s beneficiary sued for breach of contract, arguing that LINA and the county waived or were estopped from asserting the active service precondition.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of Alameda County but reversed the dismissal of LINA. In determining the effect of preconditions to effective coverage, waiver and estoppel are questions of fact. There are factual questions as to what Johnson knew or should have known about the active service requirement and whether the conduct of LINA and the county supported a reasonable expectation that the supplemental insurance was in place and effective. It is not apparent that “active service” has a single unambiguous meaning such that Johnson necessarily must have known she was not in “active service” because she was on medical leave. If Johnson’s policy went into effect, LINA, not the county, is liable for improper denial of benefits. View "Dones v. Life Insurance Co. of North America" on Justia Law