Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries
Endeavor Operating Co., LLC v. HDI Global Ins. Co.
Endeavor Operating Company, LLC (Endeavor) is a “holding company” that owns “various subsidiaries in the entertainment, sports, and fashion business sectors.” Endeavor sued the insurers for (1) declaratory relief and (2) breach of contract related to COVID-19 closures. The insurers demurred to the complaint. The trial court issued a ruling (1) sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend and (2) denying Endeavor’s motion for a new trial. The court modified its initial ruling to find that the “actual” or “threatened presence” of COVID-19 or the SARS-CoV-2 virus “does not constitute a physical loss or damage required to trigger coverage for property insurance coverage” but reaffirmed its initial ruling that the contamination/pollution exclusion applied, which in the court’s view obviated its need to address the argument Endeavor raised for the first time in its new trial motion. Endeavor appealed. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court concluded that the insurance policy unambiguously requires “direct physical loss or damage to property” before Endeavor may recover under the business interruption clauses. The court held that Endeavor failed as a matter of law to plead “direct physical loss or damage to property.” The court explained that California courts are in accord that the phrase “direct physical loss or damage to property” means a “‘distinct, demonstrable, physical alteration’” of the insured property. This is the default definition to be applied where a policy does not provide a different definition of “direct physical loss or damage.” The policy here provides no different definition. View "Endeavor Operating Co., LLC v. HDI Global Ins. Co." on Justia Law
I F G Port Hold v. Lake Charles Harbor
In this case, the parties consented to have their commercial dispute tried before a United States magistrate judge. But, allegedly unbeknownst to Defendant, the judge was longtime family friends with the lead trial lawyer for the plaintiff. Specifically, the lawyer had been a groomsman in the judge’s own wedding, and the judge officiated the wedding of the lawyer’s daughter three months before this lawsuit was filed. None of this information was disclosed to Defendant. After a twenty-day bench trial, the magistrate judge rendered judgment for the Plaintiff, awarding $124.5 million, including over $100 million in trebled damages. After the issuance of the judgment and award, Defendant learned about the undisclosed longstanding friendship and sought to have the magistrate-judge referral vacated. The district judge denied the request and denied discovery on the issue. Defendant appealed. The Fifth Circuit vacated. The court concluded that the facts asserted here, if true, raise serious doubts about the validity of Defendant’s constitutionally essential consent to have its case tried by this magistrate judge. Further, the court explained remand was necessary because the facts were not sufficiently developed for the court to decide whether Defendant’s consent was validly given or whether vacatur of the referral was otherwise warranted. Accordingly, the court remanded for an evidentiary inquiry. View "I F G Port Hold v. Lake Charles Harbor" on Justia Law
Estrada v. Public Employees’ Retirement System
Appellant, a former employee of the City of La Habra Heights (City), pled no contest to a felony that arose out of the performance of her official duties. Under the terms of Appellant’s plea agreement, the conviction was later reduced to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 17 and then dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4. After Respondent California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) determined that Appellant forfeited a portion of her retirement benefits as a result of her felony conviction, she filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate. The trial court denied her petition. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court concluded the trial court did not err in denying the petition because, consistent with the language and purpose of section 7522.72, Appellant’s retirement benefits were subject to forfeiture upon her no-contest plea to a job-related felony, notwithstanding the subsequent reduction to a misdemeanor and dismissal of the charge. Further, the court explained that Appellant asserts that section 7522.72 is unconstitutional, but she fails to present any cognizable argument or legal authority to support her claim. View "Estrada v. Public Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law
Long Beach Memorial Medical Center v. Allstate Ins. Co.
The insurer, in this case, had notice of the hospital’s lien for treatment provided to the patient and, pursuant to a settlement agreement with the patient, gave him a check for the lien amount made payable to both him and the hospital. The hospital, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, claims this action did not comply with the Hospital Lien Act (HLA) and sued the insurer who wrote the check, Allstate Insurance Company, for violating the HLA. The trial court granted Allstate’s motion for summary judgment, ruling Allstate’s two-payee check, which was never cashed, satisfied its obligation under the HLA. The Second Appellate District reversed. The court concluded that merely delivering to the patient (or, in this case, his attorney) a check for the lien amount, made payable to both the patient and the hospital, is not a payment in satisfaction of the hospital’s lien under the HLA. The court explained Allstate maintains that it made this payment to the Medical Center concurrent with payment to the patient and that, therefore, the Medical Center cannot establish Allstate made a settlement payment to the patient without paying the Medical Center the amount of its lien. The court explained that Allstate declined to specify which check made payable to the Medical Center as copayee—the February 2020 check or the March 2021 check— Allstate claims satisfied its payment obligation to the Medical Center. However, neither check was a payment to the Medical Center. Moreover, Allstate does not invoke the exception to the general rule here. View "Long Beach Memorial Medical Center v. Allstate Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Van Winkle v. Rogers
The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded in part and affirmed in part the district court’s ruling in Plaintiff’s suit against the truck driver, trucking company, and insurance company. The court found that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Defendants acted in bad faith in destroying the tire. Plaintiff was driving on an interstate highway in Louisiana when his car was struck by part of a tire that came from the tractor-trailer being driven directly in front of him. The resulting crash caused serious injuries to Plaintiff and damage to his vehicle. The tractor-trailer was owned by Defendant New Prime, Inc. d/b/a Prime, Inc. and operated by its employee, Defendant James Arthur Rogers. The tread of the failed tire — a refurbished, retread tire manufactured by Prime’s own EcoTire facility — separated from the casing or tire core before it hit Plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff filed suit against a truck driver, trucking company, and insurance company. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. On appeal, Plaintiff contends the district court erred in ruling on several motions. The central question is whether the district court was correct to hold that there were no genuine issues of material fact. The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded in part and affirmed in part. The court explained that Plaintiff should be permitted a jury instruction that if jurors find bad faith, they may infer that the destroyed evidence would have been adverse to Prime’s defense in this suit. The court wrote that Prime destroyed the most crucial piece of evidence just weeks after learning that its tire may have caused a car accident, and Prime cannot explain why it transported the tire to its Salt Lake facility or what happened to the tire following the accident. These circumstances create a fact question on bad faith, necessitating a jury determination. View "Van Winkle v. Rogers" on Justia Law
Christmann v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
After suffering personal injuries and property damage in a multi-car collision with an underinsured motorist, Kelly Lynn Christmann filed suit against her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”). Christmann was seeking to obtain the underinsured motorist benefits provided under her contract of insurance, which she claimed State Farm failed to pay in an amount justly due under her policy. She also alleged that certain terms of her insurance agreement violate public policy. State Farm argued that Christmann waived her rights to additional benefits by failing to comply with the contractual obligations of her insurance policy, thereby prejudicing State Farm’s right to subrogation against the underinsured motorist. The district court awarded summary judgment to State Farm in determining it had been prejudiced by Christmann’s conduct and that the terms of the insurance policy were valid. The court also denied Christmann’s motion for reconsideration and her Rule 60(b) motion for relief. Christmann appealed. Because the record showed State Farm fully settled its claims against the underinsured motorist and waived its subrogation rights, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded it suffered no actual prejudice from Christmann’s actions. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed. View "Christmann v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. District Court
The Supreme Court held that a commercial property insurance policy did not provide coverage for the economic losses JGB Vegas Retail Lessee, LLC suffered when COVID-19 forced JGB to shut down abruptly.JGB was insured under a policy with Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. amidst the closures and accompanying financial troubles of the COVID-19 pandemic, JGB filed a claim with Starr seeking coverage for lost business income, extra expenses, and other applicable coverage. When Starr did not respond JGB brought suit, claiming that the presence of COVID-19 on the property created the requisite "direct physical loss or damage" covered under the policy. Starr moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted in part. Thereafter, Starr filed the instant petition seeking a writ of mandamus challenging the denial of summary judgment on the remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court erred in denying summary judgment because JGB's claims for losses resulting from COVID-19 were excluded from coverage. View "Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. District Court" on Justia Law
JEREMY KITCHEN V. KILOLO KIJAKAZI
Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits on January 30, 2020, alleging disability since March 1, 2017,due to PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and a right knee injury. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. A medical expert confirmed that Plaintiff would be markedly limited when interacting with others. The medical expert suggested that Plaintiff’s Residual Function Capacity (RFC) includes “some limitations in terms of his work situation.” Once the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s decision, Plaintiff sought judicial review. The district court affirmed the agency’s denial of benefits. On appeal, Plaintiff only challenged the ALJ’s finding that his mental impairments were not disabling. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that the ALJ did not err in excluding Plaintiff's VA disability rating from her analysis. McCartey v. Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that an ALJ is required to address the Veterans Administration disability rating) is no longer good law for claims filed after March 27, 2017. The 2017 regulations removed any requirement for an ALJ to discuss another agency’s rating. The panel held that the ALJ gave specific, clear, and convincing reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's testimony about the severity of his symptoms by enumerating the objective evidence that undermined Plaintiff’s testimony. The panel rejected Plaintiff's contention that the ALJ erred by rejecting the opinions of Plaintiff’s experts. The panel held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s conclusion that Plaintiff’s mental impairments did not meet all of the specified medical criteria or equal the severity of a listed impairment. View "JEREMY KITCHEN V. KILOLO KIJAKAZI" on Justia Law
ACE American Insurance Company v. Guaranteed Rate, Inc.
Guaranteed Rate, Inc., a mortgage lender, purchased two types of insurance policies from ACE American Insurance Company: management liability and professional liability. Guaranteed Rate sought coverage under the policies for an investigation and eventual settlement of claims brought by the federal government under the False Claims Act. ACE denied coverage under both policies. According to ACE, the Professional Liability Policy expressly excluded False Claims Act charges. ACE also contended that the False Claims Act charges arose from Guaranteed Rate’s professional services, which were excluded under the Management Liability Policy. Only the Management Liability Policy was at issue in this appeal. In Guaranteed Rate’s suit against ACE, a Delaware superior court held that the False Claims Act investigation and settlement did not arise out of Guaranteed Rate’s professional services. Instead, it arose out of false certifications made to the government. Thus, the Management Liability Policy covered the loss. To this, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the superior court. View "ACE American Insurance Company v. Guaranteed Rate, Inc." on Justia Law
Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc.
Plaintiff’s son had a rare heart condition. He died at the age of twenty-seven, awaiting a heart transplant, which Rose says that Defendants—who administered her son’s employer-based health benefits program—wrongfully denied. So she sued on behalf of his estate, seeking monetary relief under both Section 502(a)(1)(B) and Section 502(a)(3). The district court dismissed both claims. As to Plaintiff’s (a)(1)(B) claim, the court held that money was not one of the “benefits” that her son was owed “under the terms of his plan.” And, as to her (a)(3) claim, the court held that her requested monetary relief was too similar to money damages and was thus not “equitable.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court explained that the district court correctly held that money was not one of the “benefits” that Plaintiff’s son was “due” “under the terms of his plan.” So it was right to dismiss her (a)(1)(B) claim. But the court explained that it must vacate its complete dismissal of Plaintiff’s (a)(3) claim. The court explained that while the district court correctly noted that compensatory, “make-whole” monetary relief is unavailable under Section 502(a)(3), it did not consider whether Plaintiff plausibly alleged facts that would support relief “typically” available in equity. The court thus remanded for the district court to decide in the first instance whether Plaintiff can properly allege such a theory based on a Defendant’s unjust enrichment, including whether an unjust gain can be followed to “specifically identified funds that remain in Defendant’s possession” or to “traceable items that the defendant purchased with the funds.” View "Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law