Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy
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Under the “individual mandate” within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, non-exempt individuals must either maintain a minimum level of health insurance or pay a “penalty,” 26 U.S.C. 5000A, the “shared responsibility payment” (SRP). The McPhersons did not maintain health insurance for part of 2017, and Juntoff did not maintain health insurance in any month in 2018. They did not pay their SRP obligations. In each of their Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, the IRS filed proofs of claim and sought priority treatment as an “excise/income tax”: for Juntoff, $1,042.39, and for the McPhersons, $1,564.The bankruptcy court confirmed their plans, declining to give the IRS claims priority as a tax measured by income. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed. DIstinguishing the Sebelius decision in which the Supreme Court determined that the SRP constituted a “penalty” for purposes of an Anti-Injunction Act analysis and a “tax” under a constitutionality analysis, the Panel concluded that the SRP is not a penalty but a tax measured by income. It is “calculated as a percentage of household income, subject to a floor based on a specified dollar amount and a ceiling based on the average annual premium the individual would have to pay for qualifying private health insurance.” View "In re: Juntoff" on Justia Law

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In 1999, Kristina drugged her sons and put them, and herself, in a running car in a closed garage. Matthew died; Adam and Kristina survived. Kristina was convicted of second-degree murder and remained in prison until 2016. In 1999, Kristina had State Farm automobile and homeowners insurance policies. In 2001, Matthew’s estate, Adam, and their father (the Rotells) sued Kristina for wrongful death and bodily injury.Kristina tendered her defense to State Farm, which filed state court declaratory judgment actions, seeking determinations that her policies did not cover the incident. The Rotells allege that State Farm rejected a settlement offer even though Kristina wished to accept it. The state court then held that the policies did not cover the incident. State Farm withdrew from the wrongful-death lawsuit. The state court entered a default judgment against Kristina; a jury entered a $505 million verdict. Kristina was insolvent, so the Rotells petitioned for involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court entered an order subjecting Kristina’s assets (claims against State Farm for bad faith and malpractice) to its control and appointed Carapella as trustee. The verdict is Kristina’s only liability. Carapella sued State Farm in Florida state court. State Farm then sought to intervene, post-judgment, in the wrongful-death action and moved to vacate the judgment, arguing that the Rotells’ fifth amended complaint was untimely and that the default judgment was void.The district court and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. The Bankruptcy Code’s “automatic stay” provision, 11 U.S.C. 362(a), precluded State Farm’s motion to intervene. View "State Farm Florida Insurance Co. v. Carapella" on Justia Law

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Grace operated a Montana asbestos facility, 1963-1990. Facing thousands of asbestos-related suits, Grace filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Its reorganization plan provided for a several-billion-dollar asbestos personal-injury trust to compensate existing and future claimants. All asbestos-related personal injury claims were to be channeled through the trust (“Grace Injunction,” 11 U.S.C. 524(g)(4)). CNA provided Grace's general liability, workers’ compensation, employers’ liability, and umbrella insurance policies, 1973-1996 and had the right to inspect the operation and to make loss-control recommendations. After 26 years of litigation regarding the scope of CNA’s coverage of Grace’s asbestos liabilities, a settlement agreement ensured that CNA would be protected by Grace’s channeling injunction. CNA agreed to contribute $84 million to the trust.The “Montana Plaintiffs,” who worked at the Libby mine and now suffer from asbestos disease, sued in state court, asserting negligence against CNA based on a duty to protect and warn the workers, arising from the provision of “industrial hygiene services,” and inspections. The Bankruptcy Court initially concluded that the claims were barred by the Grace Injunction but on remand granted the Montana Plaintiffs summary judgment.The Third Circuit vacated. Section 524(g) channeling injunction protections do not extend to all claims brought against third parties. To conform with the statute, these claims must be “directed against a third party who is identifiable from the terms of such injunction”; the third party must be “alleged to be directly or indirectly liable for the conduct of, claims against, or demands on the debtor”; and “such alleged liability” must arise “by reason of” one of four statutory relationships, including the provision of insurance to the debtor. The Bankruptcy Court erred in anlyzing the “derivative liability” and “statutory relationship” requirements. While the claims meet the derivative liability requirement, it is unclear whether they meet the statutory relationship requirement. View "In re: WR Grace & Co" on Justia Law

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Before filing for bankruptcy, the Debtors provided general contracting services for large construction projects, including many projects for departments of the federal government. To enter into contracts with the United States, contractors are generally required to post both a performance bond and a payment bond signed by the contractor and a qualified surety (such as ICSP), 40 U.S.C. 3131. When the Debtors defaulted on the contract at issue, ICSP stepped in to make sure that the work was completed. ICSP claims that it is subrogated to the United States’ rights to set off a tax refund (owed to one or more of the Debtors) against the losses that ICSP covered. However, to settle various claims in the Debtors’ Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, the United States and the Trustee agreed that the United States would waive its setoff rights.The Bankruptcy Court, district court, and Third Circuit held that ICSP is not entitled to the tax refund. The United States had not yet been “paid in full,” within the meaning of 11 U.S.C. 509(c), when the Bankruptcy Court approved the settlement, so ICSP’s subrogation rights were subordinate to the remaining and superior claims of the United States at the time of the settlement. The United States was entitled to waive its setoff rights in order to settle its remaining and superior claims; the waiver of its setoff rights extinguished ICSP’s ability to be subrogated to those rights. View "Insurance Co of the State of Pennsylania v. Giuliano" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified to three questions of law to the Georgia Supreme Court relating to a lawsuit brought in federal district court by Fife Whiteside, the trustee of the bankruptcy estate of Bonnie Winslett. Whiteside sued GEICO to recover the value of Winslett’s failure-to-settle tort claim against GEICO so that the bankruptcy estate could pay creditor Terry Guthrie, who was injured in an accident caused by Winslett. The certified questions certified asked the Supreme Court to analyze how Georgia law applied to an unusual set of circumstances that implicated both Winslett’s duty to give GEICO notice of suit and GEICO’s duty to settle the claim brought against Winslett. The Supreme Court was unable to give unqualified “yes” or “no” answers to two of the certified questions as they were posed; rather, the Court answered the questions only in the context of the circumstances of this particular case. "Winslett remains liable to Guthrie, even if her bankruptcy trustee succeeds on the failure-to-settle claim against GEICO; therefore, if the bankruptcy estate does not recover enough from GEICO to satisfy Guthrie’s judgment, the estate would not be fully compensated for Winslett’s damages, and GEICO would escape responsibility for breaching its settlement duty to Winslett. Such an outcome would deny Winslett the full measure of compensatory damages allowed under Georgia law." View "GEICO Indemnity Co. v. Whiteside" on Justia Law

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Fireman’s Fund issued insurance covering property damage at Stephens's warehouse. Three days after the policy became effective, Stephens discovered that burglars stripped the property of all electrical and conductive material. Stephens filed an insurance coverage suit, retaining attorney O’Reilly who had a first lien to assure payment of fees. The trial court entered judgment NOV, awarding Stephens nothing. O’Reilly withdrew from the case and was the subject of an involuntary bankruptcy petition. Following a remand, Stephens and Fund settled for $5.8 million. The bankruptcy estate claimed 40% of the settlement. Danko, the largest creditor, bought the claim and obtained the Stephens's files from the trustee. Based on O’Reilly’s failure to sign the retainer agreement, Stephens sent Danko a letter voiding the retainer agreement and sought declaratory relief. The court ordered Danko to return Stephens’s client file and granted a special motion to strike (anti-SLAPP) a claim for breach of trust against Fund based on the theory that Fund breached a fiduciary duty to O’Reilly and/or the bankruptcy estate by failing to advise the bankruptcy court of the Stephens-Fund settlement and “secretly disbursing” the proceeds and a claim for interference with prospective business advantage against Fund based on the same acts. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of Stephens’s motion to disqualify the Danko from representing the corporate entity to which Danko assigned the claim; a protective discovery order regarding Stephens’s client file; and the anti-SLAPP order. View "O&C Creditors Group, LLC v. Stephens & Stephens XII, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs suffer from asbestos disease as a result of exposure to Grace's Montana mining and processing operations and sought to hold Grace’s insurers (CNA), liable for negligence. CNA sought to enforce a third-party claims channeling injunction entered under Grace’s confirmed plan of reorganization to bar the claims. Bankruptcy Code section 524(g) allows an injunction that channels asbestos mass-tort liability to a trust set up to compensate persons injured by the debtor’s asbestos; channeling injunctions can also protect the interests of non-debtors, such as insurers.The Third Circuit rejected the Plaintiffs’ argument that the Plan and Settlement Agreement’s terms preserved all of CNA’s duties as a workers’ compensation insurer in order to avoid preempting the state’s workers’ compensation laws. The court then applied a three-part analysis: Section 524(g)(4)(A)(ii) allows injunctions to “bar any action directed against a third party who is identifiable . . . and is alleged to be directly or indirectly liable for the conduct of, claims against, or demands on the debtor [that] . . . arises by reason of one of four statutory relationships between the third party and the debtor.” CNA is identified in the Injunction, satisfying the first requirement. Analysis of the second factor requires review of the law to determine whether the third-party’s liability is wholly separate from the debtor’s liability or instead depends on it. The Bankruptcy Court must make that determination, and, with respect to the “statutory relationship” factor, should review the law and determine whether CNA’s provision of insurance to Grace is relevant legally to the Montana Claims. View "W.R. Grace & Co. v. Carr" on Justia Law

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From 1977-1984 Banco reinsured 2% of the Insurer’s business. The Insurer stopped writing policies in 1985, went into receivership in 1986, and began liquidating in 1987. Through 1993 the liquidator complied with contractual provisions requiring balances to be calculated quarterly and statements sent. If the Insurer owed reinsurers net balances for the previous quarter, it paid them; if the reinsurers owed the Insurer, bills were sent. In 1993, the liquidator stopped sending checks or bills without explanation. In 2008, the liquidator notified Banco that Banco was owed $225,000 as the net on 1993-1999 business. For periods before 1993, the Insurer was owed $2.5 million. In 2010, Banco protested the bill as untimely. Pine bought the Insurer’s receivables and, in 2012, sued Banco. Litigation about procedural issues, arising from the fact that Banco is wholly owned by Uruguay, consumed several years. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, holding that Pine’s claim is untimely. Each contract required scheduled netting of claims and payment of the balance. Claims against Banco accrued no later than 1993. The contracts specify application of Illinois law, which allowed 10 years (until 2003) to sue on contracts. A statute concerning insurance liquidation, 215 ILCS 5/206, does not permit a liquidator to wait until the end to net the firm’s debits and credits. View "Pine Top Receivables of Illinois, LLC v. Banco de Seguros del Estado" on Justia Law

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Reid founded Capitol, which owned commmunity banks, and served as its chairman and CEO. His daughter and her husband served as president and general counsel. Capitol accepted Federal Reserve oversight in 2009. In 2012, Capitol sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and became a “debtor in possession.” In 2013, Capitol decided to liquidate and submitted proposals that released its executives from liability. The creditors’ committee objected and unsuccessfully sought derivative standing to sue the Reids for breach of their fiduciary duties. The Reids and the creditors continued negotiation. In 2014, they agreed to a liquidation plan that required Capitol to assign its legal claims to a Liquidating Trust; the Reids would have no liability for any conduct after the bankruptcy filing and their pre-petition liability was limited to insurance recovery. Capitol had a management liability insurance policy, purchased about a year before it filed the bankruptcy petition. The liquidation plan required the Reids to sue the insurer if it denied coverage. The policy excluded from coverage “any claim made against an Insured . . . by, on behalf of, or in the name or right of, the Company or any Insured,” except for derivative suits by independent shareholders and employment claims (insured-versus-insured exclusion). The Liquidation Trustee sued the Reids for $18.8 million and notified the insurer. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a declaratory judgment that the insurer had no obligation with respect to the lawsuit, which fell within the insured-versus-insured exclusion. View "Indian Harbor Insurance Co. v. Zucker" on Justia Law

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After KFA filed suit against Hallmark for copyright infringement, Hallmark commenced a "no asset" bankruptcy case. KFA, relying on its "deemed allowed" claim, 11 U.S.C. 502(a), as a final judgment, subsequently filed suit against Mid-Continent, debtor's liability insurer, arguing that the unobjected-to claim constituted a final judgment and was res judicata as to Mid-Continent. The court concluded that the text and structure of the Bankruptcy Code, Rules and Official Forms, and relevant case law all support affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment to KFA. The court held that KFA did not have a "deemed allowed" claim that constituted res judicata against Mid-Continent because in this no asset bankruptcy case, nothing in the court proceedings required claims allowance, no notice was provided to parties in interest to object to claims, and no bankruptcy purpose would have been served by the bankruptcy court's adjudicating KFA's claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Kipp Flores Architects, LLC v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co." on Justia Law