Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

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The case involves Erie Insurance Company and its affiliates (collectively, Erie) and the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA). In 2021, the MIA initiated two separate administrative investigations into Erie following complaints alleging racial and geographic discrimination. The first investigation broadly examined Erie’s market conduct, while the second focused on the specific allegations in the individual complaints. In 2023, the MIA issued four public determination letters stating that Erie had violated state insurance laws. These letters referenced documents obtained during the market conduct investigation, which had not yet concluded. Erie requested and was granted administrative hearings on all four determination letters.Erie then filed a lawsuit against the MIA and its commissioner in federal district court, alleging due process violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and violations of Maryland state law. Erie sought a declaration that the determination letters were unlawful, an injunction preventing the defendants from disseminating the letters, and a requirement for the defendants to publicly withdraw them. The district court dismissed Erie's complaint, citing the principles of abstention outlined in Younger v. Harris, which generally discourages federal courts from interfering with ongoing state proceedings.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that Erie had an adequate opportunity to raise its constitutional claims in the administrative hearings and subsequent state court review, as required for Younger abstention. The court also rejected Erie's argument that this case fell within an exception to Younger abstention due to extraordinary circumstances or unusual situations. The court concluded that Erie had not demonstrated that the MIA's actions were motivated by bias or that the administrative proceedings would not afford Erie constitutionally adequate process. View "Erie Insurance Exchange v. Maryland Insurance Administration" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over insurance coverage for continuous injury claims. The plaintiff, Truck Insurance Exchange, was a primary insurer for Kaiser Cement and Gypsum Corporation. Truck filed an equitable contribution claim against several insurers that had issued first-level excess policies to Kaiser for policy years where the directly underlying primary policy had been exhausted. Truck argued that the excess insurers’ indemnity obligations were triggered immediately upon exhaustion of the directly underlying primary policies. The excess insurers, however, argued that they had no duty to indemnify Kaiser until it had exhausted every primary policy issued during the period of continuous damage. The trial court and the Court of Appeal agreed with the excess insurers, interpreting the excess policies as requiring horizontal exhaustion of all primary insurance.The Supreme Court of California disagreed, concluding that the language of the first-level excess policies at issue in this case is essentially identical to the policy language in the higher-level excess policies that it considered in a previous case, Montrose III. The Court held that the first-level excess policies are most reasonably construed as requiring only vertical exhaustion. However, the Court also noted that its conclusion does not fully resolve the questions presented in this appeal, which involves a contribution claim between coinsurers. The Court remanded the matter to allow the Court of Appeal to address these alternative arguments in the first instance. View "Truck Ins. Exchange v. Kaiser Cement & Gypsum Corp." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a car accident that occurred on November 4, 2015, involving Donna Powers and Fendol Carruthers, Jr. Carruthers was charged and pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Powers claimed to have sustained serious, permanent injuries from the crash. Carruthers was insured by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) with a policy limit of $50,000. Powers began receiving Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits from her own insurance carrier, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB). The Kentucky Motor Vehicle Reparations Act (MVRA) imposes a two-year statute of limitations for tort actions arising from motor vehicle accidents. Powers received her last PIP payment on August 4, 2016, meaning any tort claim she wished to assert arising from her accident with Carruthers must have been filed by August 4, 2018.Powers filed a complaint in McCracken Circuit Court on April 3, 2018, asserting a negligence claim against Carruthers and an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim against KFB. However, Carruthers had died two years earlier in March 2016, unbeknownst to Powers or her attorneys. The case remained stagnant for the next year, with Powers failing to take any action to rectify the portion of her complaint that was a nullity against Carruthers. It wasn't until August 2019 that Powers successfully moved the district court to appoint the Public Administrator to act as Administrator of Carruthers’s Estate.The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the decisions of the lower courts, which had dismissed Powers’s negligence claim against Carruthers, denied Powers’s motions for substitution and revival, denied Powers’s motion for leave to amend her complaint to raise a new claim, and granted summary judgment in favor of KFB. The court held that Powers’s claim against Carruthers was null, and her attempted claim against the Estate was untimely. Furthermore, Powers’s inability to recover from Carruthers or the Estate foreclosed her underinsured motorist claim against KFB. View "Powers v. Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The case involves Brian Frye, a homeowner who claimed that his property had suffered damage due to underground mine subsidence. He submitted a claim to his home insurer, Erie Insurance Company, and notified the Board of Risk Insurance and Management (BRIM) of the damages. Both Erie and BRIM investigated the claim, but both denied it, stating that the damage was not due to mine subsidence. Frye then sued Erie for breach of contract and other claims. The Circuit Court of Ohio County granted summary judgment to Erie, concluding that Erie functioned as BRIM’s agent in the adjustment of Frye’s claim. Frye moved the court to alter or amend that judgment, arguing that it threatened the constitutionality of certain West Virginia statutes.The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia vacated the lower court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court found that the lower court erred by failing to notify the Attorney General of the constitutional questions raised in Frye’s motion to alter or amend the summary judgment order. The court concluded that the appropriate remedy was to vacate the lower court’s order denying Frye’s motion and to remand the matter to permit the lower court to notify the Attorney General of these proceedings in accordance with Rule 24(c) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure. View "Frye v. Erie Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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The case involves Continental Indemnity Company (Continental) and its attempt to collect a default judgment against BII, Inc. (BII) from Starr Indemnity & Liability Company (Starr), BII's insurer. Continental had paid a workers' compensation claim for an employee injured at a construction site where BII was a subcontractor. Continental then sought reimbursement from BII, which had failed to maintain its own workers' compensation insurance. When BII did not pay, Continental secured a default judgment against BII and sought to collect from Starr under Illinois garnishment procedures.The district court in the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the garnishment proceeding against Starr, finding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The court reasoned that the dispute over the scope of coverage under the Starr-BII insurance policy was too distinct from the underlying suit between Continental and BII. Continental appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the garnishment proceeding introduced new factual and legal issues, making it essentially a new lawsuit. The court explained that while federal courts have ancillary enforcement jurisdiction to consider proceedings related to an underlying suit, the subject of those proceedings must still be sufficiently related to the facts and legal issues of the original action. In this case, the court found that the garnishment proceeding fell outside the scope of ancillary enforcement jurisdiction. The court suggested that Continental could file a new civil action against Starr to litigate the dispute over the insurance policy's coverage. View "Continental Indemnity Company v. BII, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over no-fault personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits. Charles Williamson was injured when he was hit by a car and applied for PIP benefits from the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (MAIPF), which operates the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP). The MAIPF assigned Williamson’s claim to AAA, but AAA refused to pay. After Williamson's death, his daughters, Porsha Williamson and Lateshea Williamson, continued the lawsuit as co-personal representatives of his estate. The Estate claimed benefits for attendant care that was purported to have been provided after Charles Williamson’s death. AAA moved for summary disposition, arguing that the Estate knowingly presented material misrepresentations in support of its claim for no-fault benefits and was therefore barred from recovering all no-fault benefits.The trial court granted AAA’s motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The Court of Appeals held that statements made during discovery cannot constitute fraudulent insurance acts under the no-fault act. AAA then applied for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court.The Michigan Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, held that false statements submitted during discovery, after a lawsuit for recovery has been filed, may be statements offered in support of a claim to the MAIPF or the assigned insurer. The court disagreed with the Court of Appeals' ruling that only prelitigation statements can constitute statements in support of a claim under MCL 500.3173a(4). The court concluded that the Estate’s interrogatory answers, which indicated that the Estate sought no-fault benefits for services rendered after Williamson passed away, were in support of a demand for coverage under the MACP based on bodily injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident. The case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Estate Of Williamson v. AAA Of Michigan" on Justia Law

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The case involves Illinois Casualty Company (ICC) and thirty-three models who contested whether arbitration was appropriate based on the assignment of several business insurance policies that ICC issued to B&S of Fort Wayne, Inc., Showgirl III, Inc., and Reba Enterprises, LLC (collectively, "Insured Clubs"). The models alleged that the Insured Clubs used their images for social media advertisements without their consent. The Insured Clubs had insurance policies with ICC, which they tendered for defense and indemnification. ICC denied coverage, leading to a settlement agreement between the Insured Clubs and the models, assigning the Insured Clubs’ rights against ICC to the models.The trial court compelled arbitration between ICC and the models. On appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding that none of the models’ claims fell within the provision of the arbitration agreement. The models sought transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.The Indiana Supreme Court held that an agreement to arbitrate in accordance with American Arbitration Association (AAA) rules constitutes “clear and unmistakable” intent to delegate arbitrability to an arbitrator. However, the court found that because no agreement to arbitrate existed between ICC and the Insured Clubs before 2016, the models could not compel arbitration for claims deriving from this period. The court affirmed in part and reversed in part, ruling that models with claims from 2016 and later could compel arbitration, but those with pre-2016 claims could not. View "Illinois Casualty Co. v. Burciaga" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a former coal miner, Richard McLain, who developed a serious lung condition after working underground for nearly two decades. McLain filed a claim under the Black Lung Benefits Act, alleging that his years of mine work had left him totally disabled from a pulmonary perspective. His former employer, Old Ben Coal Company, had been liquidated through bankruptcy, so Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, the surety guaranteeing Old Ben’s debts under the Act, contested liability on the coal company’s behalf.The case was initially heard by an administrative law judge (ALJ), who determined that McLain was disabled within the meaning of the Black Lung Benefits Act. The ALJ's decision was based on a thorough review of the medical record and a set of medical findings regarding how to distinguish between lung disorders arising from coal dust and those arising from tobacco smoke. Old Ben appealed the ALJ’s decision to the Benefits Review Board, arguing that the ALJ erroneously treated the 2001 preamble as if it were binding law and made factual findings unsupported by the medical record. The Review Board affirmed the benefits decision in full.The case was then brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The court affirmed the decision of the Benefits Review Board, emphasizing the broad discretion ALJs enjoy when evaluating competing medical theories, the weight ALJs may properly attribute to the perspective of the Department of Labor on such issues, and the significant deference owed to ALJs’ medical findings and scientific judgments on appeal. The court found no error in the ALJ's application of a regulatory preamble or in the factual findings that were challenged by Old Ben. View "Safeco Insurance/Liberty Mutual Surety v. OWCP" on Justia Law

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The case involves Ferrellgas Partners L.P. and its subsidiaries (collectively "Ferrellgas") and Zurich American Insurance Company ("Zurich"). Ferrellgas had an insurance policy with Zurich, which included a provision for the advancement of defense costs for litigation. Ferrellgas was involved in a separate lawsuit with Eddystone Rail Company, LLC ("Eddystone") over a breach of contract. Ferrellgas sought to have Zurich cover the defense costs for the Eddystone litigation under their insurance policy.In the lower court, the Superior Court of the State of Delaware, Ferrellgas filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a declaratory relief obligating Zurich to advance defense costs for the Eddystone litigation. Zurich also filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a declaration that it had no obligation to advance defense costs. The Superior Court denied Ferrellgas' motion and granted Zurich's motion, finding that the Eddystone litigation was excluded from coverage under the Zurich policy.On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware affirmed the decision of the Superior Court. The Supreme Court found that the Eddystone litigation was a claim seeking relief for a breach of contract that occurred after the commencement of the Run-Off Coverage Period in the Zurich policy. As such, Zurich had no duty to advance defense costs for this matter due to the Run-Off Exclusion in the policy. The court also found that Ferrellgas' appeal was timely filed. View "Ferrellgas Partners, L.P. v. Zurich American Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over who should pay for the personal injury protection (PIP) benefits of Justin Childers, who was severely injured in a car accident. Initially, Childers' PIP benefits were covered by American Fellowship Mutual Insurance Company, but the company was declared insolvent in 2013. The Michigan Property and Casualty Guaranty Association (MPCGA) then assumed responsibility for Childers' PIP benefits. The MPCGA, after an investigation, concluded that Progressive Marathon Insurance Company was next in line to provide Childers' PIP benefits. However, Progressive denied Childers' claim.The trial court granted summary disposition to Progressive, ruling that while the actions were not time-barred, Progressive was not within statutory priority for Childers' benefits. The Court of Appeals reversed this decision, concluding that the one-year limitations period did not apply because the MPCGA is not generally subject to the no-fault act, and the MPCGA did not bring the action under the no-fault act. Instead, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the MPCGA’s right to proceed against Progressive came from the guaranty act, which allows the MPCGA to claim reimbursement from another insurer in the chain of designated priority insurers.The Michigan Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the Court of Appeals. It held that the one-year limitations period in MCL 500.3145(1) applies where either an insured or the MPCGA brings an action for PIP benefits against a lower priority no-fault insurer after the higher priority insurer becomes insolvent. The court concluded that both the action brought by Childers' conservator and the MPCGA's action were time-barred. The court reversed part of the Court of Appeals' opinion, vacated the remainder, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Childers v. Progressive Marathon Insurance Company" on Justia Law