Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff insured a nightclub under a general liability policy, which covered “bodily injury and property damage liability.” The policy contained several restrictions on that coverage. A nightclub employee and guest were both shot during a shooting at the club.   After the shooting, Plaintiff filed a federal declaratory judgment to determine the full extent of its liability. Plaintiff claimed that because the nightclub shooting was an assault and battery, the policy limited recovery for any and all injuries to $50,000. Second, it argued that the worker’s compensation and employee-injury exclusions barred the employee’s recovery. To get around the bar, the employee’s estate argued that the nightclub’s actions triggered a statutory exception for intentional torts. It alleged that the nightclub had engaged in conduct that it “knew” was virtually certain to result in injury or death to the employee.” Relying primarily on the conflict between one of the federal claims and the state case, the district court dismissed the case. Defendant appealed.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s dismissal held that the district court failed to consider the policy limits claim, missed the efficiency gains that it needed to balance against federalism and comity interests before deciding whether to proceed with the declaratory judgment action. A totality-of-the-circumstances analysis only works when a court considers all of the relevant details. To do otherwise leaves weights that should be balanced off the scales, or, if used more nefariously, would tip them in favor of a result chosen in advance. View "James River Insurance Company v. Rich Bon Corp, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her employer, Life Insurance Company of North America, and several related individuals (collectively, Employer) for discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination. In response, Employer moved to compel arbitration based on a 2014 arbitration agreement. However, Employer did not present a copy of the agreement. Instead, Employer presented an auto-generated acknowledgment indicating Plaintiff read and consented to the terms of the agreement.The trial court denied Employer's motion to compel arbitration, finding that Employer did not establish an agreement to arbitrate and, even if an agreement existed, it was both procedurally and substantively unconscionable.The Second Appellate District affirmed. The trial court had the authority to review the "gateway" issue of arbitrability because Plaintiff claimed to have never seen or agreed to the arbitration agreement. Further, the fact that Employer's system created an auto-generated acknowledgment that Plaintiff consented to the agreement did not overcome Plaintiff's claim that she was not presented with the agreement and never would have agreed to it. View "Trinity v. Life Ins. Co. of North America" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff bought a home insurance policy from Allstate that covered damage from wind and hail. On June 6, 2018, a wind and hail storm hit the area where Plaintiff lived, allegedly damaging his roof. An Allstate adjuster estimated the value of the loss at less than the deductible and paid Plaintiff nothing. Allstate later moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s remaining claims for breach of contract and failure to conduct a reasonable investigation. The district court granted Allstate’s motion finding that Plaintiff’s losses involved concurrent causes and Plaintiff had not carried his burden of proving how much damage came from the June 6, 2018 incident.   The Fifth Circuit explained that Texas’s concurrent causation doctrine instructs leaves questions about when the doctrine applies, and what plaintiffs must prove when it does. The court certified to the Supreme Court three questions:   1. Whether the concurrent cause doctrine applies where there is any non-covered damage, including “wear and tear” to insured property, but such damage does not directly cause the particular loss eventually experienced by plaintiffs;2. If so, whether plaintiffs alleging that their loss was entirely caused by a single, covered peril bear the burden of attributing losses between that peril and other, non-covered or excluded perils that plaintiffs contend did not cause the particular loss; and3. If so, whether plaintiffs can meet that burden with evidence indicating that the covered peril caused the entirety of the loss (that is, by implicitly attributing one hundred percent of the loss to that peril). View "Overstreet v. Allstate" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that when an employer pays premiums to a mutual insurance company to obtain a policy for its employee and the insurance company demutualizes, the employee is entitled to the proceeds from demutualization.Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company (MLMIC) issued professional liability insurance policies to eight medical professionals who were litigants in the cases before the Court of Appeals on appeal. The premiums for the policies were paid by the professionals' employers. After MLMIC demutualized and was acquired by National Indemnity Company, MLMIC sought to distribute $2.502 billion in cash consideration to eligible policyholders pursuant to its plan of conversion. At issue was the employers' claim of legal entitlement to receive the demutualization proceeds. The Supreme Court held that, absent contrary terms in the contract of employment, insurance policy, or separate agreement, the employee, who is the policyholder, is entitled to the proceeds. View "Columbia Memorial Hospital v. Hinds" on Justia Law

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Prate, a construction contractor, sought coverage through the Illinois Assigned Risk Plan, which provides workers’ compensation insurance coverage through a risk pool administered by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Liberty was assigned as Prate’s carrier. After determining that Prate’s subcontractor, ARW, did not have workers’ compensation insurance, Liberty assessed Prate an additional premium of $127,305. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, which provides dispute resolution services for NCCI, declined to rule on the dispute, citing insufficient information. Prate appealed to the Department of Insurance (DOI) under Insurance Code section 462. One of Prate’s arguments was that ARW had no employees and that all work on Prate projects was performed by RTS, which had workers’ compensation insurance. The DOI’s hearing officer agreed with Liberty on all issues. The circuit court affirmed. While an appeal was pending, the appellate court issued its ruling in a dispute between Liberty and a trucking company, finding that DOI did not have the authority to resolve a dispute concerning employment status.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court decision. The DOI had the authority to resolve the dispute under 215 ILCS 5/462. While section 462 does not apply to all insurance premium disputes but only to those involving the application of a rating system to a party’s insurance, the existence of a single factual dispute does not preclude review under section 462. View "Prate Roofing and Installations, LLC v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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MNDKK, LLC’s insurer, Great Lakes Insurance, sent subrogation demands through an assignee to Dingmann Brothers Construction (“Dingmann”) due to alleged dust-related property damage. Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company (“Grinnell”), Dingmann’s insurer, commenced a declaratory-judgment action to determine coverage under the insurance policy issued to Dingmann. The district court granted Grinnell’s motion for summary judgment, holding that two policy exclusions unambiguously apply due to the presence of silica in the dust and that coverage is foreclosed. Defendants argued that the two exclusions do not apply, meaning Grinnell is responsible for covering the cost of the property damage caused by the dust.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and held that there is no genuine dispute of material fact about whether the dust contained silica. Further, Defendants argued that the cleanup provision does not apply because the damage was due to silica or silica-related dust itself, not its effects. Defendants claimed that there is a misplaced comma between “effects of” and “silica.” The court held that the comma before “silica” indicates that the phrase “the effects of” belongs with the phrase immediately preceding it, rather than with “‘silica’ or ‘silica-related dust.’” So, the last verb phrase in the series is “or in any way responding to or assessing the effects of,” and the comma separates the series from the noun phrase that is its direct object. Finally, the court held overlapping provisions can exist in an insurance policy and that both the cleanup and property-damage provisions apply. View "Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co v. Great Lakes Insurance SE" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Nshan Simonyan had a dispute with his insurer, Nationwide Insurance Company of America ("Nationwide") over the company's handling of his defense arising out of a three-car accident in which Simonyan was a driver. Simonyan asked Nationwide to appoint, as "Cumis" counsel, a law firm that he had already hired to advance his affirmative claim against the driver who hit him. Nationwide refused. Simonyan appealed the dismissal of his case after the trial court sustained Nationwide’s demurrer to his second amended complaint without leave to amend. Simonyan argued his allegations were sufficient to state claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to reconsider based on new allegations. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Simonyan v. Nationwide Ins. Co. of America" on Justia Law

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Comegys, an independent insurance agency, had an independent contractor relationship with Safeco, a liability insurer. Comegys marketed Safeco insurance policies to the public. Comegys was allegedly negligent in procuring automobile insurance for one of its clients. Comegys had provided the client with an automobile insurance policy from Safeco, which the client eventually needed to rely on when he caused a car accident that ended in a motorcyclist’s death. Comegys offered to settle (and did settle through the errors and omissions policy it had with Endurance) the potential negligence claims the client had against it.   Relying on the indemnification provision between Safeco and Comegys, Endurance sued Safeco. Endurance wants to be indemnified by Safeco because the attorney Safeco provided to the client after the car accident pointed out the potential negligence claim the client had against Comegys.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s judgment finding in favor of Endurance’s claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court held that Safeco was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court reasoned that under Florida law, “[i]ndemnity contracts are subject to the general rules of contractual construction . . . [and] must be construed on the [express] intentions of the parties.” Here, there is no breach because Endurance never carried its burden at trial of explaining how Safeco breached the indemnification provision of the Limited Agreement. Further, Endurance did not argue that there is any express term of the Limited Agreement (besides the indemnification provision, which requires breach of an independent contract provision) that has been violated. View "Endurance American Specialty Insurance Company v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Lisa French went to respondents Centura Health Corporation and Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado d/b/a St. Anthony North Health Campus (collectively, “Centura”) for surgery. Upon reviewing French’s insurance information prior to surgery, Centura advised her that she would personally be responsible for $1,336.90 of the amounts to be billed. After the surgery, however, Centura determined that it had misread French’s insurance card and that she was, in fact, an out-of-network patient. Centura then billed French $229,112.13 and ultimately sued her to collect. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to review: (1) whether here, Centura’s database used by listing rates for specific medical services and supplies, was incorporated by reference into hospital services agreements (“HSAs”) that French had signed; and (2) if so, whether the price term in the HSAs was sufficiently unambiguous to render the HSAs enforceable. The Court concluded that because French neither had knowledge of nor assented to the chargemaster, which was not referenced in the HSA or disclosed to her, the chargemaster was not incorporated by reference into the HSA. Accordingly, the HSA left its price term open, and therefore, the jury appropriately determined that term. The Court reverse the judgment of the division below, and did not decide whether the price that French was to pay was unambiguous, even if the HSA incorporated the chargemaster. View "French v. Centura Health" on Justia Law

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Reserve Mechanical Corp. appealed a Tax Court judgment affirming the decision of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that it did not qualify for an exemption from income tax as a small insurance company and that the purported insurance premiums it received must therefore be taxed at a 30% rate under I.R.C. section 881(a). After review, the Tenth Circuit held that the record supported the Tax Court’s decision that the company was not engaged in the business of insurance. The court had two grounds for deciding that Reserve was not an insurance company: (1) Reserve had not adequately distributed risk among a large number of independent insureds; and (2) the policies issued by Reserve were not insurance in the commonly accepted sense. In addition, Reserve argued that if it was not an insurance company, the premiums it received should have been treated as nontaxable capital contributions. The Tenth Circuit also rejected that argument. View "Reserve Mechanical Corp. v. CIR" on Justia Law