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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court’s garnishment order in favor of a judgment creditor and her insurer, holding that the insurer demonstrated prejudice as a matter of law from its lack of notice of suit. The policy in this case contained a requirement that the insured inform the insurer of a lawsuit arising out of an otherwise covered automobile accident. After the judgment creditor and her insurer obtained the garnishment order, the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the stipulated facts established that the insured breached his notice-of-suit duty under the insurance policy and that the insurer was prejudiced by that breach. View "Geer v. Eby" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court holding that EPC MD 15, LLC’s ability to control its subsidiary meant that, for insurance-coverage purposes, EPC acquired all of the subsidiary’s property under a coverage-extension provision in the commercial property policy issued by Erie Insurance Exchange, holding that the circuit court misinterpreted the coverage-extension provision in the policy. EPC was a named insurance on the policy issued by Erie. EPC claimed coverage for fire damages to a building owned by one of EPC’s subsidiaries, but the subsidiary was not a named insured, and no provision of the policy identified the subsidiary as an additional insured. The circuit court found that coverage existed for the loss and entered final judgment for EPC. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Erie policy did not cover the damaged property in this case. View "Erie Insurance Exchange v. EPC MD 15, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company (Metropolitan), appealed a superior court order partially granting and partially denying its summary judgment motion as well as a cross-motion filed by plaintiff Joseph Santos. Santos held a personal excess liability policy with Metropolitan that included excess underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. After Metropolitan denied a claim made by Santos for excess UIM benefits after Santos was hurt in a motorcycle accident, he brought this declaratory judgment action. The trial court ruled that Metropolitan was liable to Santos for excess UIM benefits. Metropolitan argued the trial court erred in so holding because Santos’s policy required, as a precondition to receiving excess UIM benefits, that he carry a certain amount of underlying insurance coverage, and Santos did not do so. Santos argued his lack of sufficient underlying coverage allowed Metropolitan to reduce its excess UIM liability but not escape it altogether. Finding no error in the superior court's judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed partial summary judgment. View "Santos v. Metropolitan Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court ruling that Scottsdale Insurance Company (Scottsdale) breached its duty to defend the Wellesley Advisory Reality Fund, I, LLC (WARF) in a prior action and awarding damages, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. In 2014, Appellees in the instant case brought suit against WARF, acting in their capacity as representatives of the Board of Trustees for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 51 Pension and Annuity Funds (the Funds). Default judgment was entered against WARF, and WARF assigned the Funds its rights in WARF’s insurance policy with Scottsdale, which had refused to defend WARF. Scottsdale later brought an action against Appellees seeking a declaration that it did not owe WARF a duty to defend or indemnify under certain exclusions in the policy. The district court ultimately concluded that the the exceptions in the insurer’s policies did not relieve Scottsdale of its duty to defend WARF in the prior action, awarding the Funds the full limits of the insurance policy plus post-judgment interest. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no basis for excusing Scottsdale from its duty to defend or from which to relieve Scottsdale of its obligation to pay the policy limit. View "Scottsdale Insurance Co. v. Byrne" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified to the California Supreme Court the following question: Does a commercial liability policy that covers "personal injury," defined as "injury . . . arising out of . . . [o]ral or written publication . . . of material that violates a person's right of privacy," trigger the insurer's duty to defend the insured against a claim that the insured violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unsolicited text message advertisements that did not reveal any private information? View "Yahoo! Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In an earlier appeal, Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company (Lumbermens) challenged an order denying its motion to vacate summary judgment on a bail bond forfeiture and to exonerate the bail bond. The day after Lumbermens filed its notice of appeal, American Surety Company (American), the appellant here, filed an undertaking to stay enforcement of the summary judgment during the first appeal. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeal affirmed the order denying Lumbermens’ motion to vacate the summary judgment and to exonerate the bail bond. Six days before the Court of Appeal issued the remittitur in the first appeal, American filed a motion in the trial court to exonerate the undertaking and to be released from liability on the undertaking. The undertaking was filed pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 917.1; because Lumbermens’ appeal was from a postjudgment order denying a motion to vacate the summary judgment, which was not a money judgment or an order directing the payment of money, American argued section 917.1 did not apply, and the undertaking was ineffective at all times. The trial court denied the motion, concluding American forfeited its challenge to the validity of the undertaking by waiting to file its motion until 57 days after the Appeals Court issued its opinion in the first appeal, and six days before the remittitur. In this case, American renewed its argument the undertaking it filed on behalf of Lumbermens was ineffective because Lumbermens appealed from a postjudgment order, and not from the summary judgment itself and, therefore, the stay provided for in section 917.1 was never triggered. In addition, American argued the undertaking never became effective because the trial court did not approve it as required by statute. The Court of Appeal determined American was correct that the undertaking it filed in the first appeal was never effective. Likewise, American was correct that, even if section 917.1 applied to Lumbermens’ appeal, the undertaking was not effective because the trial court did not approve of it pursuant to section 995.840 (a). Nonetheless, the Court agreed with the State that American forfeited its challenge to the validity of the undertaking by waiting until six days before the issuance of the remittitur to file its motion to vacate the undertaking. And, even if the Court concluded American did not forfeit its challenges to the undertaking, the Court agreed with the State that American was estopped from challenging the undertaking on appeal. View "California v. American Surety Co." on Justia Law

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A Reinsurance Participation Agreement (RPA) executed by AUCRA and Minnieland was an insurance contract under Virginia law. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not violate the court's prior mandate by looking at the EquityComp program as a whole; the RPA and insurance policies constituted an integrated transaction and must be read as one contract; and the integrated contract was a contract of insurance under Virginia Code 38.2–312. Finally, the court noted that it was not the first to determine that the program marketed by Applied Underwriters was insurance. View "Minnieland Private Day School v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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Dennis Woolman, former president of The Clemens Coal Company, challenged a district court’s determination that Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company didn’t breach a duty to him by failing to procure for Clemens Coal an insurance policy with a black-lung disease endorsement. Clemens Coal operated a surface coal mine until it filed for bankruptcy in 1997. Woolman served as Clemens Coal’s last president before it went bankrupt. Federal law required Clemens Coal to maintain worker’s compensation insurance with a special endorsement covering miners’ black-lung disease benefits. Woolman didn’t personally procure insurance for Clemens Coal but instead delegated that responsibility to an outside consultant. The policy the consultant ultimately purchased for the company did not contain a black-lung-claim endorsement, and it expressly excluded coverage for federal occupational disease claims, such as those arising under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act). In 2012, a former Clemens Coal employee, Clayton Spencer, filed a claim with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) against Clemens Coal for benefits under the Act. After some investigation, the DOL advised Woolman that Clemens Coal was uninsured for black-lung-benefits claims as of July 25, 1997 (the last date of Spencer’s employment) and that, without such coverage, Woolman, as Clemens Coal’s president, could be held personally liable. Woolman promptly tendered the claim to Liberty Mutual for a legal defense. Liberty Mutual responded with a reservation-of-rights letter, stating that it hadn’t yet determined coverage for Spencer’s claim but that it would provide a defense during its investigation. Then in a follow-up letter, Liberty Mutual clarified that it would defend Clemens Coal as a company (not Woolman personally) and advised Woolman to retain his own counsel. Liberty Mutual eventually concluded that the insurance policy didn’t cover the black-lung claim, and sued Clemens Coal and Woolman for a declaration to that effect. In his suit, Woolman also challenged the district court’s rejection of his argument that Liberty Mutual should have been estopped from denying black-lung-disease coverage, insisting that he relied on Liberty Mutual to provide such coverage. Having considered the totality of the circumstances, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court didn’t err in declining Woolman’s extraordinary request to expand the coverages in the Liberty Mutual policy. “Liberty Mutual never represented it would procure the coverage that Woolman now seeks, and the policy itself clearly excludes such coverage. No other compelling consideration justifies rewriting the agreement— twenty years later—to Woolman’s liking.” View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance v. Woolman" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Employers in an action brought by Employers, seeking a declaratory judgment to clarify whether Hartford had a duty to pay half of the expenses related to an underlying workers' compensation claim. The court held that Hartford's purported cancellation of an insurance policy, after a workers' compensation claim had arisen, was void under Missouri law. Furthermore, assuming that Hartford properly pleaded the affirmative defense of mutual mistake, the court held that the company failed to identify any mutual mistake during the formation of the contract. View "Employers Preferred Insurance Co. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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The Strawns’ home and pickup, which were insured by State Farm were “damaged and destroyed” by fire on June 1, 2009. They immediately notified State Farm. Dennis Strawn was prosecuted for arson, but the case was dismissed in February 2013. In August 2015, State Farm informed the Strawns that it was denying their claims on the ground that Dennis Strawn had intentionally set the fire and Diane Strawn had fraudulently concealed evidence of this wrongful conduct. In August 2016, the Strawns sued, alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and elder abuse. The claims for invasion of privacy and elder abuse were also alleged against Wood, the attorney who represented State Farm, and MPP, Wood’s law firm. The trial court dismissed the claims against the attorneys. The court of appeal affirmed as to financial elder abuse but reversed as to the claim of invasion of privacy, which alleged that Wood improperly provided the Strawns’ tax returns to State Farm and its accountants despite their assertion of their privilege to not disclose the returns. View "Strawn v. Morris, Polich & Purdy" on Justia Law