Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries
Episcopal Church in South Carolina v. Church Insurance Company of Vermont
In 2012, Bishop Lawrence sought to disaffiliate his South Carolina-based diocese from the Episcopal “Mother Church”. Some parishes followed suit. The Mother Church purported to remove Lawrence and selected a new bishop. The Disassociated Diocese and Parishes sued the Mother Church to clarify their property rights in diocesan. The Mother Church filed counterclaims and separately filed trademark and false-advertising claims. Both cases are ongoing.The Church Insurance Company, wholly owned by the Church Pension Fund, is a freestanding nonprofit affiliated with the Mother Church. Captive insurance companies may only cover the risks of their parent companies and related entities. Before the schism, the Company issued a Diocesan Program Master Policy, listing as “named insured” the Episcopal diocese and listing 56 participant parishes, including the now-Disassociated Parishes, in its declarations. Each parish has a separate, individualized insurance policy and paid premiums directly to the Company. The policies provide liability coverage for injuries arising out of “infringement of copyright, title, slogan, trademark, or trade name” and include a broad duty to defend. The Company has reimbursed the Disassociated Parishes’ defense costs in connection with both lawsuits.The Associated Diocese sued the Company, alleging breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of that suit for lack of standing. The Company has not strayed beyond its limitations as a captive insurer or breached its obligations under the policies, so there is no injury traceable to such conduct. View "Episcopal Church in South Carolina v. Church Insurance Company of Vermont" on Justia Law
Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC
The district court held on summary judgment that, under Eleventh Circuit precedent, federal maritime law requires strict compliance with captain and crew warranties in a marine insurance policy. The district court concluded that, because Ocean Reef breached those warranties, there was no coverage for the loss of its yacht under a policy issued by Travelers.The Eleventh Circuit applied Wilburn Boat Co. v. Firearm’s Fund Ins. Co., 348 U.S. 310, 316 (1955), and concluded that there does not exist entrenched federal maritime rules governing captain or crew warranties in this case. Therefore, Florida law applies to determine the effect of Ocean Reef's breaches. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC" on Justia Law
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Mississippi Transportation Commission
This case involved a dispute between Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual), Hill Brothers Construction Company (Hill Brothers) and the Mississippi Transportation Commission (the Commission) regarding a fuel-adjustment clause (the FAC) in a highway-construction contract. In 2019, the Commission successfully moved to alter or amend the circuit court's judgment. The circuit court vacated its prior entry of partial summary judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual on the issue of liability, effectively denying Liberty Mutual's motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Liberty Mutual's petition for interlocutory appeal. The company argued the 2019 order was entered in violation of the Supreme Court's mandate in Hill Brothers I. The Supreme Court determined the circuit court erred in denying Liberty Mutual's motion on liability. The circuit court's judgement was thus reversed and summary judgment reinstated in favor of the insurance company on the issue of liability. View "Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Mississippi Transportation Commission" on Justia Law
Huggins v. Aquilar
In September 2016, defendant Trend Motors, Ltd. (Trend), provided defendant Mary Aquilar with a loaner vehicle for her personal use while her vehicle was being serviced. Aquilar’s negligent operation of the loaner vehicle caused it to strike plaintiff Tyrone Huggins’s car. Huggins sustained serious injuries as a result. GEICO insured Aquilar through an automobile policy. Trend held a garage policy with Federal Insurance Company (Federal) that insured Trend’s vehicles for up to $1,000,000 in liability coverage. The definition of an “insured” in the Federal policy purported to extend liability coverage to Trend’s customers using Trend’s vehicles only if the customer lacked the minimum insurance required by law. Huggins filed a complaint seeking compensation for the injuries and loss of income he suffered as a result of the accident. Federal disclaimed liability, arguing that Aquilar did not fit the policy’s definition of an insured because she held $15,000 in bodily injury coverage through GEICO. The trial court held that the Federal policy’s definition of an insured constituted an illegal escape clause and held Federal to the full policy limit of $1,000,000 in liability coverage. The Appellate Division declined to review the trial court’s ruling. The New Jersey Supreme Court concurred with the trial court’s ruling that the provision in the garage policy at issue constituted an illegal escape clause which could not be used to evade the minimum liability requirements for dealership vehicles set by the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). The Court ordered the reformation of Federal’s policy to the $100,000/$250,000 dealer-licensure minimum liability coverage required by N.J.A.C. 13:21-15.2(l). View "Huggins v. Aquilar" on Justia Law
MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. The Hanover Insurance Co.
This appeal consolidates seven separate cases that three related corporate entities, MSP, originally filed in Florida state court against seventeen insurance companies. The district court granted MSP's motions to remand but declined to order the insurance companies to pay MSP's attorney's fees and costs.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that it does not have jurisdiction over the cross-appeals brought by Travelers, Northland, and Owners insurance companies. In this case, the remand orders fall within the scope of 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) and are unreviewable. Therefore, the court dismissed the cross-appeals for lack of jurisdiction. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying MSP's motions for attorney's fees and costs. The court held that it is not an abuse of discretion for a district judge to decline to award attorney's fees and costs under section 1447(c) simply because that judge or other district court judges within the same district have previously remanded in similar cases. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's orders. View "MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. The Hanover Insurance Co." on Justia Law
California Medical Ass’n v. Aetna Health of California, Inc.
CMA and others filed suit against Aetna, seeking among other claims, an injunction for alleged violations of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL; Bus. & Prof. Code, section 17200). The trial court found that CMA lacked standing under the UCL because it was not directly injured by Aetna's policy.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of Aetna's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the body of law permitting an association to bring a nonclass representative action does not bestow standing upon CMA to seek an injunction against Aetna under the UCL, whether or not CMA individually suffered injury in fact and lost money or property. The court also concluded that CMA's evidence that it diverted substantial resources to assist its physician members who were injured by Aetna's policy did not create a material disputed fact as to whether CMA itself suffered injury in fact and lost money or property. The court explained that an association must sustain direct economic injury to itself and not just its members to bring a UCL claim. Furthermore, evidence that an association diverted resources to investigate its members' claims of injury and advocate for their interests is not enough to show standing under the UCL. In this case, the federal authorities CMA cites are neither binding on this court nor instructive. View "California Medical Ass'n v. Aetna Health of California, Inc." on Justia Law
Antonopoulos v. Mid-Century Insurance Co.
After plaintiffs lost their home in a fire, they promptly submitted a claim under their homeowner’s insurance policy to their insurer, Mid-Century. Mid-Century denied the claim on the ground that the policy had been canceled for nonpayment of premium six days before the fire. Plaintiffs immediately paid the past due premium, the policy was reinstated, but Mid-Century continued to deny the claim. Plaintiffs filed suit for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court granted summary adjudication for plaintiffs on the issue of Mid-Century's duty to provide coverage and denied Mid-Century's motion for summary judgment in its entirety.The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court properly denied Mid-Century's motion for summary judgment but improperly granted plaintiff's motion for summary adjudication. The court rejected Mid-Century's argument that the loss-in-progress rule precludes coverage. Rather, the court concluded that the law allowed Mid-Century to retroactively reinstate the policy with no lapse in coverage. However, the court concluded that there exists a triable issue of material fact regarding Mid-Century's intent when it reinstated the policy that precludes summary adjudication for either party. View "Antonopoulos v. Mid-Century Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Affordable Construction Services, Inc. v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court answered a question of law certified by the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee by holding that Tenn. Code Ann. 56-7-111 does not provide for a private right of action.Section 56-7-111 states that when an insured property owner's home or other structure sustains more than $1,000 in damages, the casualty or property insurance company shall name the general contractor of an uncompleted construction contract as a payee when issuing payment to the property owner. In the instant case, the insurance company issued a check to the owner but did not name the general contractor as a payee. The general contractor brought this suit alleging that the insurance company did not comply with section 56-7-111. The federal court certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether a general contractor has a private right of action against an insurance company for violating section 56-7-111. The Supreme Court held that the statute does not expressly grant such a private right of action and that the legislature did not intend to imply a private right of action. View "Affordable Construction Services, Inc. v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Creation Supply, Inc. v. Selective Insurance Co. of the Southeast
This case involves a decade-long, three-lawsuit dispute between the insurer and the insured over who owed what when. At issue in this appeal is whether the district court properly awarded extracontractual damages to the insured under Section 155 of the Illinois Insurance Code. Section 155 permits an insured to seek extracontractual damages from an insurer in any case in which at least one of three issues remains undecided: (1) the insurer's liability under the policy, (2) the amount of the loss payable under the policy, or (3) whether there was an unreasonable delay in settling a claim.The Seventh Circuit concluded that the insured cannot pursue Section 155 damages in this action because none of these three threshold issues remains undecided. In this case, the insurer's liability under its policy with the insured was resolved by the Illinois Appellate Court in 2015; the amount of loss payable by the insurer to the insured under the policy was determined by the Illinois Appellate Court in 2017; and the insured does not seek recovery for any unreasonable delay by the insurer in settling the insured's claim. Therefore, none of the insured's extracontractual issues remain undecided. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision granting relief to the insured under Section 155. View "Creation Supply, Inc. v. Selective Insurance Co. of the Southeast" on Justia Law
In re Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief in these actions challenging rulings on a Rule 91a motion to dismiss, holding that the the trial court abused its discretion in denying Insurer's motion to dismiss Insured's claim for negligent failure to settle.A liability insurer (Insurer) settled claims against its insured (Insured) within policy limits but obtained a release that was contingent on Insured paying a portion of the settlement. Insured paid and then brought this action seeking reimbursement, alleging claims for negligent failure to settle and for breach of contract. Insurer filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court denied. Insurer sought mandamus relief. The court of appeals granted relief as to the breach of contract claim but concluded that the trial court properly refused to dismiss the claim for negligent failure to settle. Both parties sought mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief to both parties, holding (1) the trial court abused its discretion in denying Insurer's motion to dismiss Insured's Stowers claim for negligent failure to settle; and (2) the court of appeals erred in ordering the trial court to dismiss Insured's claim for breach of the contractual obligation to indemnify. View "In re Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law