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The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions of state law to the California Supreme Court: 1. Are the lenders identified in Article XV of the California Constitution, see Cal. Const. art. XV, 1, as being exempt from the restrictions otherwise imposed by that article, nevertheless subject to the requirement in section 1916-2 of the California Civil Code that a lender may not compound interest "unless an agreement to that effect is clearly expressed in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith"? 2. Does an agreement meet the requirement of section 1916-2 if it is comprised of: (1) an application for insurance signed by the borrower, and (2) a policy of insurance containing an agreement for compound interest that is subsequently attached to the application, thus constituting the entire contract between the parties pursuant to section 10113 of the California Insurance Code? View "Wishnev v. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Risk retention groups (RRGs) insure only their owners. The Products Liability Risk Retention Act encourages manufacturers to pool their resources into RRGs and explicitly preempts state laws that inhibit the formation of RRGs. The subsequent Liability Risk Retention Act (LRRA) preempts any state law that would “make unlawful, or regulate, directly or indirectly, the operation of" an RRG, 15 U.S.C. 3902(a) and provides that only an RRG’s chartering state may regulate its formation and operation. If RRGs are “subject to that state’s insurance regulatory laws, including adequate rules and regulations allowing for complete financial examination of all books and records” they may operate in any state. Nonchartering states may require RRGs “to … demonstrate[e] financial responsibility" to obtain a license or permit to undertake specified activities but states are prohibited from “discriminating” against an out-of-state RRG. Restoration is a Vermont-chartered RRG for businesses that restore buildings after disasters. In Wisconsin, these businesses are regulated as “dwelling contractors” and must obtain an annual certificate of financial responsibility from the state Trades Credentialing Unit (TCU), by proof of a “policy of general liability insurance issued by an insurer authorized to do business in [Wisconsin].” Since 2006, Wisconsin dwelling contractors could meet this requirement by securing insurance from Restoration. In 2015, TCU changed its position so that none of Restoration’s Wisconsin shareholder‐insureds could rely on Restoration to satisfy the state liability insurance requirements. The Seventh Circuit vacated a judgment rejecting Restoration’s challenge to the ruling and remanded for a determination of whether intervening amendments to the statute render the litigation moot. View "Restoration Risk Retention Group, Inc. v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

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The Insurer appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the insured in a dispute regarding damage from a hailstorm to windows in the insured's home. An appraisal panel issued an appraisal award but the parties disputed the meaning of the award. The Eighth Circuit held that the appraisal award was ambiguous and the district court should have returned the matter to the appraisal panel for clarification. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment and remanded. View "Herll v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Christita Moreau appealed a Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) order denying her motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment to Transportation Insurance Company. Moreau’s husband Edwin worked at the W.R. Grace mine near Libby. In 2009, he died from asbestos-related lung cancer. In 2010 Moreau, as personal representative of Edwin’s estate, filed a workers’ compensation claim for occupational disease benefits. Transportation Insurance Company (Transportation) was W.R. Grace’s workers’ compensation insurer, and it denied liability for the claim. Edwin’s employer, W.R. Grace, established and funded the Libby Medical Plan (LMP) to pay the medical expenses of its employees who were injured by exposure to asbestos. LMP paid approximately $95,000 of Edwin’s medical expenses. In 2012, as part of Grace’s bankruptcy, “certain rights and duties of the LMP” were transferred to the Libby Medical Plan Trust. Grace remained responsible for LMP’s “ongoing payment obligations” incurred before that time. In 2013, Transportation accepted liability for the workers’ compensation claim and entered a settlement with Moreau. Transportation agreed to reimburse Medicaid, other providers, and Moreau personally for medical expenses each had paid for Edwin’s care. The parties stipulated that Transportation paid all of Edwin’s medical bills or reimbursed the other persons or entities that had paid them. Transportation did not reimburse the LMP for the $95,846 of Edwin’s medical bills it had previously paid because the LMP refused to accept it. After the LMP refused to accept reimbursement from Transportation, Moreau demanded that Transportation pay the $95,000 either to Edwin’s Estate, to the LMP or its successor, or to a charity selected by the Estate. Transportation refused and Moreau filed a second petition with the WCC to resolve the issue. The WCC determined that all of Edwin’s medical care costs had been paid; that Edwin had no liability to any health care provider; and that he had no right to claim any further payment from Transportation. The WCC determined that if the Estate were to receive the $95,000 from Transportation it would represent a double recovery because Edwin had already received the medical benefits themselves. The Court concluded that Moreau therefore lacked standing to proceed Moreau’s petition. The WCC also found that Moreau’s attorneys also represented the LMP Trust “for purposes of recovering the disputed $95,846” for the LMP Trust. At the time of the WCC order, the LMP Trust was not a party to this action and had not advanced a claim in the WCC for reimbursement of the amount paid by its predecessor LMP. The WCC therefore granted summary judgment to Transportation. Finding no reversible error in that WCC decision, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed. View "Moreau v. Transportation Ins." on Justia Law

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Heimer, one year over the legal drinking age, drank alcohol with friends and then rode motorbikes in a field. Heimer and his friend collided. Heimer suffered extensive injuries, incurring more than $197,333.50 in medical bills. Heimer’s blood alcohol level shortly after the crash was 0.152, nearly twice the limit to legally use an off-road vehicle in Michigan. Heimer was insured. As required by his plan, he submitted a medical claim form shortly after the accident. The plan administrator denied coverage based on an exclusion for “[s]ervices, supplies, care or treatment of any injury or [s]ickness which occurred as a result of a Covered Person’s illegal use of alcohol.” After exhausting administrative appeals, Heimer filed suit. The district court held that the plan exclusion did not encompass Heimer’s injuries, reasoning that there is a difference between the illegal use of alcohol—such as drinking while under 21 or drinking in defiance of a court order—and illegal post-consumption conduct, such as the illegal use of a motor vehicle. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Reading “illegal use of alcohol” to disclaim coverage only for the illegal consumption of alcohol, and not for illegal post-consumption conduct is consistent with the ordinary meaning of “use” and best gives effect to the contract as a whole. View "Heimer v. Companion Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Life Insurance Company of North America’s terminated plaintiff-appellant Carl Van Steen’s long-term disability benefits under Lockheed Martin’s ERISA Plan. Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA) appealed the district court’s finding that its decision to terminate Van Steen’s benefits was arbitrary and capricious. Van Steen, in turn, appealed the district court’s denial of his attorney’s fees request. Van Steen was physically assaulted during an altercation while walking his dog. The assault resulted in a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that impacted Van Steen’s cognitive abilities that prevented him from returning to full time work; Van Steen was eventually allowed to return to part-time work on a daily basis roughly six weeks later. Even on a part-time schedule, Van Steen experienced cognitive fatigue and headaches that required him to frequently rest. Due to his inability to stay organized and keep track of deadlines after the assault, Van Steen received poor feedback on his job performance. Van Steen’s claim for partial long-term disability benefits was approved on March 30, 2012. Roughly a year later, LINA reviewed Van Steen’s file, contacted his doctors, and confirmed that Van Steen’s condition and restrictions were permanent as he was “not likely to improve.” Despite this prognosis, LINA sent Van Steen a letter one week later terminating his long-term disability benefits, explaining that “the medical documentation on file does not continue to support the current restrictions and limitations to preclude you from resuming a full-time work schedule.” Having exhausted his administrative appeals under the Plan, Van Steen next sought relief before the district court. The district court reversed LINA’s decision to terminate Van Steen’s partial long-term disability benefits on the grounds that it was arbitrary and capricious, but denied Van Steen’s request for attorney’s fees. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court’s reversal of LINA’s decision to terminate Van Steen’s coverage. The Court also found that Van Steen was not eligible for attorney fees: “Van Steen’s arguments fail to convince us that the district court’s decision was based on a clear error of judgment or exceeded the bounds of permissible choice.” View "Van Steen v. Life Insurance Company N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Provident on breach-of-contract and tortious-breach-of-contract claims stemming from two disability insurance policies that Provident issued to plaintiff. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to raise a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether his disability resulted from injury and arthritis, in which case he would be entitled to lifelong benefits. Therefore, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment as to the breach-of-contract claim. Even if plaintiff had not waived his claim for punitive damages based on the theory that Provident tortiously breached the contract, he failed to offer evidence showing that Provident lacked an arguable reason for administering his claim under the sickness provisions. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to this issue. View "Cox v. Provident Life & Accident Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question of law to the Nevada Supreme Court: Under Nevada law, if a plaintiff has filed suit against an insurer seeking damages based on a separate judgment against its insured, does the insurer's liability expire when the statute of limitations on the judgment runs, notwithstanding that the suit was filed within the six-year life of the judgment? View "Nalder v. United Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Palmer’s vacant Detroit apartment complex was covered by a Scottsdale fire insurance policy until November 2012. The property was vandalized in February 2012. Palmer reported the loss in October 2013. Scottsdale replied that it was investigating. In November, Palmer sent Scottsdale an itemized Proof of Loss. Scottsdale paid Palmer $150,000 in June 2014. Michigan law provides that losses under any fire insurance policy shall be paid within 30 days after receipt of proof of loss. Palmer requested an appraisal. Scottsdale agreed, noting the claim remained under investigation. Appraisers concluded that Palmer’s actual-cash-value loss was $1,642,796.76. The policy limit was $1,000,000. Scottsdale tendered checks over a period of several months that paid the balance. Palmer requested penalty interest for late payment. Michigan law states that if benefits are not paid on a timely basis, they bear simple interest from a date 60 days after satisfactory proof of loss was received by the insurer at the rate of 12% per annum. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s conclusion that the penalty-interest claim arose “under the policy” and was barred by the policy’s two-year limitations provision. Palmer did not allege that Scottsdale breached the policy agreement. Scottsdale paid the insured loss and the policy had no time limit for paying a loss, Palmer has no unvindicated rights and no claim “under the policy” to assert. His claim is under the statute. View "Palmer Park Square, LLC v. Scottsdale Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Shaundalyn Elliott, a resident of Montgomery County, was injured in an automobile accident in the City of Hayneville in Lowndes County. On February 23, 2017, Elliott filed this lawsuit at the Lowndes Circuit Court against her automobile insurer, Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate"), seeking uninsured-motorist benefits related to the accident. Elliot alleged that the accident was caused by a "phantom driver," whose location was unknown. Allstate filed a motion to transfer the action from the Lowndes Circuit Court to the Montgomery Circuit Court. Elliott petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Lowndes Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring this case to the Montgomery Circuit Court. In this case, the Supreme Court found that Lowndes County and Montgomery County had connections to this action. The accident, injuries, and police investigation occurred in Lowndes County. On the other hand, Elliott resided in Montgomery County, where she sought treatment for her injuries resulting from the accident and where the parties' contractual dealings arose. Under the specific facts of this case, Lowndes County's connection to the accident was not "little" or "weak," and Montgomery County did not have a significantly stronger connection to the case to justify a transfer of this case under the interest-of-justice prong of § 6-3-21.1. Therefore, the Court held the trial court erred in transferring this action to the Montgomery Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Shaundalyn N. Elliott." on Justia Law