Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

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This litigation arose from a suit filed by plaintiff Beverly Smith against Darlene Shelmire and her insurer, GoAuto Insurance Company (“GoAuto”), as a result of an automobile accident in 2010. In 2015, following a trial on the merits, the district court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff against Shelmire and GoAuto in an amount in excess of the insurance policy limits. GoAuto appealed that judgment, but Shelmire did not. The court of appeal ultimately affirmed the district court’s judgment in March 2016. Thereafter, Shelmire assigned her rights to pursue a bad faith action against GoAuto to Smith. Through that assignment of rights, Smith filed the underlying suit against GoAuto on March 10, 2017, and amended her petition on September 27, 2017, asserting a bad faith claim based on GoAuto’s violation of its duties under La. R.S. 22:1973(A) as well as the recognized duty of good faith pre-existing the statute. GoAuto answered the petitions, asserting the prescriptive period for a bad faith claim against an insurer was a delictual action, and subject to a one-year prescriptive period. Plaintiff opposed the exception arguing a bad faith claim against an insurer was a contractual action and subject to a ten-year prescriptive period. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application to determine whether a first-party bad faith claim against an insurer was indeed a delictual action subject to a one-year prescriptive period, or whether it was a contractual claim subject to a ten-year prescriptive period. Finding the bad faith claim arose as a result of the insured’s contractual relationship with the insurer, the Court held it was subject to a 10-year prescriptive period. View "Smith vs. Citadel Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court denying a claimant's motion to set aside a default judgment in favor of an insurance company and allow the claimant to intervene as a necessary party, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the claimant was not a necessary party and the trial court could decide the coverage dispute between the insurance company and its insured without the claimant's participation in the action. The claimant sued the insured for damages arising from an automobile accident. The insurance company sought a declaratory judgment that the company was not required to provide liability coverage to the insured. The trial court awarded the insurance company a default judgment. The claimant moved to set aside the default judgment and allow her to intervene on the basis that she was a necessary party. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the claimant had no interest affected by the dispute between the insurance company and its insured; and (2) therefore, the trial court had authority to grant declaratory relief because all necessary parties were before the court. View "Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Debruce" on Justia Law

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After a customer purchased a pharmaceutical product from Target (the retailer) which was distributed by McKesson (the supplier), she experienced an adverse reaction to the product that resulted in serious bodily injury. The customer filed suit against Target, and McKesson and Golden State Insurance (the carrier) refused to defend it. Target then filed suit against McKesson and Golden State, seeking to compel them to defend it. The trial court granted McKesson and Golden State's motion for summary adjudication. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the indemnification/defense clause in McKesson's contract with Target and the additional insured endorsement did not require McKesson and Golden State to defend Target against the customer's lawsuit. In this case, the customer's claim was based on Target's mislabeling of a product that was not defective. Therefore, Target's actions came within the exclusions of the additional insured endorsement for repackaging and labeling and relabeling. Furthermore, the additional insured endorsement did not impose on McKesson a duty to provide additional insured coverage that would protect Target from the customer's claim that it had mislabeled the medication and had failed to warn of possible adverse reactions and side effects. View "Target Corp. v. Golden State Insurance Co. Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in favor of Medicare in an action brought by CIGA, seeking declaratory relief after Medicare paid for and demanded reimbursement from CIGA for medical expenses of certain individuals whose workers' compensation benefits CIGA was administering. The panel held that Medicare, as a secondary payer, was entitled to seek reimbursement from a beneficiary's primary payer, typically private insurance. However, CIGA was not a primary plan, and specifically was not a workmen's compensation law or plan. Rather, the panel held that CIGA was an insolvency insurer of last resort. The panel explained that insurance regulation was a field traditionally occupied by the states, and it must presume that the Medicare secondary payer provisions do not preempt state insurance laws unless Congress clearly manifested its intent to do so. Furthermore, nothing in the Medicare statute or its implementing regulations suggested that Congress meant to interfere with state schemes to protect against insurer insolvencies. View "California Insurance Guarantee Assoc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. Specifically, the federal appellate court asked whether an insurance company was bound by its agent’s written representation (made in a certificate of insurance) that a particular corporation was an additional insured under a given policy. This question arose in a case where: (1) the Ninth Circuit already ruled that the agent acted with apparent authority; but (2) the agent’s representation turned out to be inconsistent with the policy; and (3) the certificate included additional text broadly disclaiming the certificate’s ability to “amend, extend or alter the coverage afforded by” the policy. The Washington Supreme Court responded yes: an insurance company is bound by the representation of its agent in the circumstances presented by the federal court. “Otherwise, an insurance company’s representations would be meaningless and it could mislead without consequence.” View "T-Mobile USA, Inc. v. Selective Ins. Co. of Am." on Justia Law

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In 2005, Protective Life Insurance Company (Protective Life) issued William McHugh a 60-year term life policy (the policy) that provided for a 31-day grace period before it could be terminated for failure to pay the premium. McHugh failed to pay the premium due on January 9, 2013, and his policy lapsed 31 days later. McHugh passed away in June 2013. This appeal raised one fundamental issue: whether Insurance Code sections 10113.71 and 10113.72 ("the statutes"), which came into effect on January 1, 2013, applied to term life insurance policies issued before the statutes' effective date. Mchugh's daughter, Blakely McHugh, the designated beneficiary under the policy, and Trysta Henselmeier (appellants) sued Protective Life for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, claiming Protective Life failed to comply with the statutes' requirement that it provide a 60-day grace period before it terminated the policy for nonpayment of premium. The parties filed various trial court motions, and Protective Life, relying largely on interpretations of the Department of Insurance (the Department) argued that the statutes did not apply retroactively to McHugh's policy and the claim. The court rejected Protective Life's arguments and ruled that the statutes applied to the claim. The matter proceeded to jury trial and Protective Life prevailed. Appellants appealed both a special verdict in favor of Protective Life and an order denying their motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 906, Protective Life requested that the Court of Appeal affirm the verdict on the additional ground that the statutes did not apply to the policy and the trial court erred by ruling to the contrary when it denied Protective Life's motion for a directed verdict. The Court of Appeal concurred with Protective Life, finding the trial court should have granted the company’s motion for a directed verdict. View "McHugh v. Protective Life Insurance" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming in part and reversing in part numerous interlocutory decisions made by the trial court in connection with the first and second phases of a trial between R.T. Vanderbilt Company, Inc. and numerous insurance companies, holding that the appellate court's opinion properly resolved the significant issues raised on appeal. These appeals concerned questions of insurance law arising from coverage disputes between Vanderbilt and the insurer defendants, who issued comprehensive general liability insurance policies to Vanderbilt for more than a half a century. The disputes stemmed from lawsuits alleging injuries from exposure to industrial talc containing asbestos that Vanderbilt mined and sold. On interlocutory appeal from several decisions made by the trial court the appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the appellate court properly construed the occupational disease exclusions to bar coverage for occupational disease claims brought not only by Vanderbilt employees but also by individuals who contracted an occupational disease while working for other employers; and (2) the appellate court properly resolved the remaining issues on appeal. View "R.T. Vanderbilt Co., Inc. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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John and Michelle Strauss challenged the Court of Appeals decision affirming summary dismissal of their action against Premera Blue Cross, which arose out of the denial of coverage for proton beam therapy (PBT) to treat John's prostate cancer. At issue was whether the Strausses established the existence of a genuine issue of material fact regarding PBT's superiority to intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), thereby demonstrating that proton beam therapy was "medically necessary" within the meaning of their insurance contract. The Washington Supreme Court determined they did, and therefore reversed the Court of Appeals' decision, and remanded for a jury trial on the disputed facts. View "Strauss v. Premera Blue Cross" on Justia Law

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While driving his truck, Moun Keodalah and an uninsured motorcyclist collided. After Keodalah stopped at a stop sign and began to cross the street, the motorcyclist struck Keodalah's truck. The collision killed the motorcyclist and injured Keodalah. Keodalah's insurance policy with Allstate Insurance Company included underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Keodalah requested Allstate pay him his UIM policy limit of $25,000. Allstate refused, offering $1,600 based on its assessment Keodalah was 70% at fault for the accident. After Keodalah asked Allstate to explain its evaluation, Allstate increased its offer to $5,000. Keodalah sued Allstate asserting a UIM claim. The ultimate issue before the Washington Supreme Court in this case was whether RCW 48.01.030 provided a basis for an insured's bad faith and Consumer Protection Act claims against an insurance company's claims adjuster. The Supreme Court held that such claims were not available, and reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Keodalah v. Allstate Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal annulled the decision of the appeals board and remanded with directions to find that the special employer had a valid endorsement in its workers' compensation insurance policy excluding coverage for special employees. The court held that while the appeals board was correct that the limiting endorsement had not been signed by the special employer, the written affirmation required by the regulation then in effect is not limited to a signature. Taking into account the circumstances of the entire transaction and its history, the court held that there was substantial compliance with the requirement of a written affirmation. Therefore, the court held that CIGNA was liable for the claim as a covered claim within the meaning of Insurance Code section 1063.1. View "Travelers Property Casualty Co. v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board" on Justia Law