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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

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The employer, Luxor Cabs, obtained workers' compensation insurance through AUCRA under an EquityComp program. The EquityComp workers’ compensation insurance program has garnered nationwide attention from administrative agencies and judicial tribunals. In 2016, the California Insurance Commissioner issued an administrative decision concluding that the EquityComp program violated state insurance laws and that the reinsurance participation agreement (RPA) between AUCRA and the insured employer, in that case, was void as a matter of law. In 2018, the Fourth Appellate District came to a similar decision in a case essentially identical to this one involving arbitrability under an RPA. Luxor, unhappy with AUCRA's handling of claims, filed suit. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of AUCRA’s motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of an RPA between an employer, Luxor Cabs, and AUCRA. The trial court properly rejected an argument that the validity of the arbitration clause should, itself, have been referred to arbitration in accordance with the RPA’s “delegation clause.” Both the delegation clause and the arbitration provision in the RPA were void and unenforceable because they each separately constituted an “endorsement” to the Policy which was not properly vetted and approved as required by Insurance Code section 11658. View "Luxor Cabs, Inc. v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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American Family filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment against Vein Centers, its insured, disputing American Family's duty to defend and indemnify Vein Centers in a class action. St. Louis was the class representative in the underlying action against Vein Centers and later joined as a defendant in the declaratory judgment action. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for American Family, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that American Family satisfied its burden of establishing the minimum amount in controversy and summary judgment was proper because St. Louis Heart failed to provide any evidence that adequate notice of the policy exclusion was not provided to Vein Centers. View "American Family Mutual Insurance Co. v. St. Louis Heart Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant Rainforest Chocolate, LLC appealed the grant of summary judgment motion in favor of appellee Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd. Rainforest was insured under a business-owner policy offered by Sentinel. In May 2016, Rainforest’s employee received an email purporting to be from his manager. The email directed the employee to transfer $19,875 to a specified outside bank account through an electronic-funds transfer. Unbeknownst to the employee, an unknown individual had gained control of the manager’s email account and sent the email. The employee electronically transferred the money. Shortly thereafter when Rainforest learned that the manager had not sent the email, it contacted its bank, which froze its account and limited the loss to $10,261.36. Rainforest reported the loss to Sentinel. In a series of letters exchanged concerning coverage for the loss, Rainforest claimed the loss should be covered under provisions of the policy covering losses due to Forgery, for Forged or Altered Instruments, and for losses resulting from Computer Fraud. Sentinel denied coverage. In a continuing attempt to obtain coverage for the loss, Rainforest also claimed coverage under a provision of the policy for the loss of Money or Securities by theft. Sentinel again denied coverage, primarily relying on an exclusion for physical loss or physical damage caused by or resulting from False Pretense that concerned “voluntary parting” of the property—the False Pretense Exclusion. Finding certain terms in the policy at issue were ambiguous, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed summary judgment and remanded for the trial court to consider in the first instance whether other provisions in the policy could provide coverage for Rainforest's loss. View "Rainforest Chocolate, LLC v. Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd." on Justia Law

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A jury convicted former United States Postal Service employee Robert Hamilton of three counts of making a false or fraudulent statement for the purpose of obtaining compensation under the California workers' compensation law. On appeal, Hamilton argued: (1) because, as a federal employee, his workers' compensation benefits were provided under the Federal Employment Compensation Act, the doctrine of federal preemption barred him from being prosecuted under California law for any offense alleging fraud in obtaining federal workers' compensation benefits under FECA; and (2) regardless of whether the prosecution was preempted, his conviction was supported by insufficient evidence under Insurance Code section 1871.4 (a)(1) because that statute applied only to false or fraudulent statements made for the purpose of obtaining compensation afforded under the California workers' compensation law, which was not applicable to him as a federal employee. On the issue of federal preemption, the Court of Appeal concluded that Hamilton did not meet his burden to establish that the State's prosecution of him was preempted. With respect to the sufficiency of the evidence, the Court agreed with the State's concession that insufficient evidence supported Hamilton's convictions because he did not receive compensation under the California workers' compensation law. The Court declined to exercise discretion to modify the judgment to impose convictions on a lesser included offense. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed. View "California v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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Defendant issued a life insurance policy to the Decedent. Plaintiff, Decedent’s former wife, is the primary beneficiary; the contingent beneficiaries are Decedent’s “surviving children equally.” Plaintiff and Decedent divorced. Their Dissolution Agreement required that Plaintiff pay the premium of the Defendant’s policy and required “Husband at his expense [to] maintain" insurance on his life with the parties’ children as irrevocable primary beneficiaries. The couple had minor children at the time of Decedent’s death. When Plaintiff requested payment, Defendant requested that Plaintiff obtain waivers from "other potential parties” and court-appointed guardians for the children or that Plaintiff waive her rights so that Defendant could disburse the proceeds to the minor children. The court dismissed Defendant’s subsequent interpleader complaint and ordered Defendant to disburse to Plaintiff. A jury found that Defendant breached its contract, resulting in actual damages of $350,000; Defendant’s refusal to pay was in bad faith, resulting in additional damages of $87,500; and Defendant’s refusal to pay was either intentional, reckless, malicious, or fraudulent. The jury awarded punitive damages of $3,000,000. A Tennessee statute capped punitive damages at two times the compensatory damages awarded or $500,000, whichever is greater. Plaintiff challenged the cap under the Tennessee Constitution. The Tennessee Supreme Court declined to provide an opinion on certified questions. The district court then rejected Plaintiff’s challenge, reducing Defendant’s punitive damages liability to $700,000. The Sixth Circuit vacated in part, finding that the statutory cap on punitive damages, T.C.A. 29-39-104, violates the individual right to a trial by jury. View "Lindenberg v. Jackson National Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Somnus Mattress Corporation d/b/a Posturecraft Mattress Company ("Somnus") appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Stephen Hilson and Crutchfield & Graves Insurance Agency, LLC ("CGIA"), on Somnus's claim that Hilson and CGIA were negligent in advising Somnus not to purchase insurance coverage for business interruption and loss of profits ("business-income coverage"). After review of the circuit court record, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Hilson and CGIA did not have a duty to advise Somnus concerning the adequacy of its insurance coverage. Without such a duty, as a matter of law Somnus could not establish that Hilson and CGIA were negligent in their actions. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in entering a summary judgment in favor of Hilson and CGIA. View "Somnus Mattress Corp. v. Hilson" on Justia Law