Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

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After a Texas condo association suffered property damage during Hurricane Harvey, it filed a property-damage claim against its insurer. When the insurer refused to pay, the association filed suit for breach of its insurance contracts.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the association, holding the insurer liable. Applying de novo review, the court held that the association established coverage and that the insurer failed to prove that an exclusion applies. In this case, the association met its burden to show that its boat slips are covered in the absence of an applicable exclusion. Furthermore, in the face of an affidavit tending to establish that the boat slips were not destroyed by a "flood," the insurer could not carry its legal burden to prove one of the "flood" exclusions by submitting nothing. The court explained that this is particularly true where the policy exclusions on their face do not apply to the loss of the association's boat slips. Finally, the insurer conceded in the district court that the association's boat slips are covered by the storage provision, and the insurer cannot rely on the governmental-body exclusion. View "Playa Vista Conroe v. Insurance Company of the West" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the Title III court denying relief from an automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. 362(d), holding that the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) Title III court in Puerto Rico did not abuse its discretion in denying relief from the stay.These companion cases from the Title III court involved bonds issued by the Puerto Rico Infrastructure and Financing Authority (PRIFA) and the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority (HTA). Appellants had insured millions of dollars of these bonds against default. When HTA and PRIFA defaulted on the bonds, causing Appellants to make payments to their insureds, Appellants brought this suit against Puerto Rico, HTA, and PRIFA. Thereafter, Puerto Rico petitioned to begin Title III proceedings under PROMESA, triggering an automatic stay of certain claims against them. Appellants sought relief from the automatic stay under section 362, as incorporated by PROMESA. The Title III denied relief. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no cause to lift the stay as to any of Appellants' claims. View "Assured Guaranty Corp. v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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An excess insurer under a directors’ and officers’ liability insurance policy sought a declaration from the superior court that coverage under the policy was not available to fund the settlement of two lawsuits: a breach of fiduciary duty action in the Court of Chancery, and a federal securities action in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. In a series of decisions, the superior court rejected the insurer’s claims and entered judgment in favor of the insureds. Aggrieved, the insurer contended the superior court committed several errors: whether the insurance policy, which insured a Delaware corporation and its directors and officers but which was negotiated and issued in California, should have been interpreted under Delaware law; whether the policy, to the extent that it appeared to cover losses occasioned by one of the insureds’ fraud, was unenforceable as contrary to the public policy of Delaware; whether a policy provision that excluded coverage for fraudulent actions defeats coverage; and whether the superior court properly applied the policy’s allocation provision. Finding no reversible error, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "RSUI Indemnity Co. v. Murdock, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Quicken, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, alleging causes of action for breach of fiduciary duty and violations of Civil Code section 2954.8 and Business and Professions Code section 17200, contending that section 2954.8 requires a lender to pay interest on insurance proceeds held in escrow following the partial or total destruction of the insured's residence or other structure. In this case, plaintiff's home was destroyed by Ventura's Thomas Fire and his hazard insurance policy jointly paid him and his mortgage lender, Quicken, a total of $1,342,740. The Deed of Trust allowed Quicken to hold the insurance proceeds in escrow and to disburse the funds as repairs to the home were being made.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision sustaining Quicken's demurrer to the complaint without leave to amend, concluding that neither section 2954.8 nor the parties' loan agreement required the payment of interest. Based upon the statutory and contractual language, the court agreed with Lippitt v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (C.D.Cal. Apr. 16, 2020, No. SA CV 19-1115-DOC-DFM) 2020 U.S. Dist. Lexis 122881, that section 2954.8 "applies to common escrows maintained to pay taxes, assessments, and insurance premiums -- not to the comparatively unique example of hazard insurance proceeds held by a lender pending property rebuilding." Therefore, the court concluded that the insurance proceeds held by Quicken pursuant to section 5 of the Deed of Trust fall outside the scope of section 2954.8. Furthermore, plaintiff's secondary reliance on the purported purposes of section 2954.8 does not and cannot circumvent the statute's plain language. View "Gray v. Quicken Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Andrew Panaggio appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (Board) determination that respondent, CNA Insurance Company (the insurer), could not be ordered to reimburse him for his purchase of medical marijuana because such reimbursement would have constituted aiding and abetting his commission of a federal crime under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). When Panaggio appealed the insurer’s denial to the New Hampshire Department of Labor, a hearing officer agreed with the insurer. Panaggio appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the Board, which unanimously found that his use of medical marijuana was reasonable and medically necessary. Nonetheless, the Board upheld the insurer’s refusal to reimburse Panaggio, concluding that “the carrier is not able to provide medical marijuana because such reimbursement is not legal under state or federal law.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court surmised the issue on appeal raised a question of federal preemption, "which is essentially a matter of statutory interpretation and construction." Although it was an issue of first impression for the New Hampshire Court, other courts considered whether the CSA preempted a state order requiring reimbursement of an employee’s purchase of medical marijuana. Panaggio reasoned that “[b]ecause New Hampshire law unambiguously requires the insurer to pay for the claimant’s medically related treatment,” an insurer that reimburses a claimant for the purchase of medical marijuana acts without the volition required by the federal aiding and abetting statute. The insurer asserted Panaggio’s argument leads to an absurd result, observing that “[c]onflict preemption applies because state law requires what federal law forbids.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court ultimately concluded the CSA did not make it illegal for an insurer to reimburse an employee for his or her purchase of medical marijuana. "[A] Board order to reimburse Panaggio does not interfere with the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA. Regardless of whether the insurer is ordered to reimburse Panaggio for his medical marijuana purchase, the federal government is free to prosecute him for simple possession of marijuana under the CSA." Under these circumstances, the Court concluded the “high threshold” for preemption “is not met here.” The Board's decision was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Appeal of Andrew Panaggio" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Company and declaring that ALPS owed no duty to defend or indemnify Defendants in a malpractice suit, holding that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to ALPS.ALPS brought this action seeking a declaration that it owed no duty to defendant or indemnify Keller, Reynolds, Drake, Johnson & Gillespie, P.C. (the firm) or any of its members for claims Bryan Sandrock, GG&ME, LLC and DRAES, Inc. (collectively, Sandrock) asserted in a malpractice suit against the firm and three of its attorneys. In granting summary judgment for ALPS, the district court held that the firm's ALPS policy did not provide coverage for Sandrock's claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that there was no coverage under the policy because a member of the firm knew the basis of the legal malpractice claim before the effective date of the policy. View "ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Keller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing for failure to state a claim Corinth Pellets, LLC's complaint alleging that a fire loss at Corinth's wood pellet mill was covered under a commercial property insurance policy issued by Arch, holding that the superior court erred in its interpretation of Maine's surplus lines insurance law, Me. Rev. Stat. 24-A, 2009-A.On appeal, Corinth argued that the fire loss was covered under the policy, despite having occurred after the policy term had expired, because Arch failed notify Corinth of its intention not to renew the policy as required by section 2009-A, and therefore, the policy was automatically renewed at the end of the term. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that section 2009-A(1) requires a surplus lines insurer to give written notice of its intent either to cancel a policy or not to renew a policy at least fourteen days before the effective date of cancellation or nonrenewal. View "Corinth Pellets, LLC v. Arch Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Reliance Standard Life Insurance (“Reliance”) appealed district court’s orders: (1) concluding that Reliance wrongly denied David Carlile’s claim for long-term disability benefits; (2) refusing to remand the case and instead ordering an award of benefits; (3) awarding attorney fees and costs to Carlile; and (4) denying Reliance’s motion to amend or alter judgment. After reviewing the policy at issue here, the Tenth Circuit determined the relevant policy language was ambiguous and therefore construed it in Carlile’s favor, and in favor of coverage. Furthermore, the Court concluded the district court did not err in refusing to remand the case back to Reliance or in awarding attorney fees and costs to Carlile. View "Carlile v. Reliance Standard Life Ins." on Justia Law

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A subcontractor built a retaining wall that collapsed years later, causing damage to a nearby residential lot. The homeowner sued the subcontractor, obtained a default judgment, and then sued the subcontractor’s insurance company to enforce the default judgment. The insurance company moved for summary judgment, arguing the homeowner’s damages occurred long after the insurance policy had expired, and therefore the insurance company had no duty to cover the default judgment. The trial court agreed and granted the motion. On appeal, the homeowner alleged “continuous and progressive” damage began to occur shortly after the subcontractor built the retaining wall during the coverage period of the insurance policy. The insurance company disagreed. The Court of Appeal determined that was a triable issue of material fact, thus reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. View "Guastello v. AIG Specialty Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Defendant Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Allstate"), appealed a circuit court's order granting the posttrial motion of the plaintiff, Doyle Harbin, which sought the imposition of sanctions based on Allstate's purported violation of a pretrial mediation order. In 2015, Harbin was injured as the result of a motor-vehicle accident that he alleged was caused by Irvin Stewart. Harbin subsequently filed a complaint in the trial court asserting a negligence claim against Stewart. In the same complaint, Harbin also named Allstate, Harbin's automobile insurance carrier, as a defendant and sought to recover uninsured/underinsured-motorist ("UIM") benefits under his Allstate policy. Following Stewart's dismissal, Harbin, without opposition from Allstate, requested that the scheduled trial date be continued and the matter referred to mediation. Unable to reach a settlement, the matter proceeded to trial. A jury returned a $690,000 verdict in Harbin's favor. Approximately two weeks later, Harbin filed a "Motion for Entry of Judgment and Motion for Sanctions," essentially contending Allstate in bad faith failed to abide by the Order which set the Court-ordered mediation in which Allstate had agreed to participate. The motion requested Allstate pay Harbin's trial-related attorneys' fees. The Alabama Supreme Court found the evidence failed to show Allstate violated the trial court's mediation order, thus it exceeded its discretion by issuing Harbin's requested sanctions. The Court therefore reversed the portion of the trial court's order imposing sanctions exceeding Harbin's request for costs and fees totaling $57,516.36, and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Allstate Property & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Harbin" on Justia Law