Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
Bonner v. Triple-S Vida, Inc.
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Triple-S Management Corporation and Triple-S Vida, Inc. (collectively, Triple-S) and dismissing this case brought by Dora Bonner, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Bonner's discovery-related motions and did not err in considering the evidence at the summary judgment stage.Bonner brought several claims alleging that Triple-S denied her millions of dollars of proceeds from certain certificates and devised a scheme to defraud her. After denying Bonner's motion to compel discovery and extend the discovery deadline, the district court concluded that Triple-S had established as a matter of law that the persons behind the fraudulent scheme were not related to Triple-S. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to compel and motion for consideration; and (2) properly granted summary judgment for Triple-S. View "Bonner v. Triple-S Vida, Inc." on Justia Law
Schleicher & Stebbins Hotels, LLC, et al. v. Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co., et al.
In an interlocutory appeal, multiple hotel operators challenged a superior court’s orders in a suit against defendants, multiple insurance underwriters, all relating to the denial of coverage during the COVID-19 world health pandemic. Plaintiffs owned and operated twenty-three hotels: four in New Hampshire, eighteen in Massachusetts, and one in New Jersey. Plaintiffs purchased $600 million of insurance coverage from defendants for the policy period from November 1, 2019 to November 1, 2020. With the exception of certain addenda, the relevant language of the policies was identical, stating in part that it “insures against risks of direct physical loss of or damage to property described herein . . . except as hereinafter excluded.” For periods of time, pursuant to governors’ orders, hotels in each of the three states were permitted to provide lodging only to vulnerable populations and to essential workers. These essential workers included healthcare workers, the COVID-19 essential workforce, and other workers responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Beginning in June 2020, plaintiffs’ hotels were permitted to reopen with a number of restrictions on their business operations. Plaintiffs, through their insurance broker, provided notice to defendants they were submitting claims in connection with losses stemming from COVID-19. Plaintiffs sued when these claims denied, arguing that the potential presence of the virus triggered business loss provisions in their respective policies. To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed, finding that “[w]hile the presence of the virus might affect how people interact with one another, and interact with the property, it does not render the property useless or uninhabitable, nor distinctly and demonstrably altered.” View "Schleicher & Stebbins Hotels, LLC, et al. v. Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co., et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Contracts, Health Law, Insurance Law, New Hampshire Supreme Court
Coast Restaurant Group, Inc. v. AmGUARD Insurance Company
Coast Restaurant Group appealed the dismissal of its case. The trial court sustained respondent AmGUARD Insurance Company’s demurrer to the operative complaint without leave to amend. Appellant contended the court erred in sustaining the demurrer because it showed business income losses resulting from governmental orders prohibiting on-site dining at its restaurant due to the COVID-19 virus were covered under the relevant insurance policy. The Court of Appeal concluded appellant did show there was potential coverage under the policy, but respondent showed that an exclusion in the policy applied to preclude coverage as a matter of law. View "Coast Restaurant Group, Inc. v. AmGUARD Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, California Courts of Appeal, Civil Procedure, Insurance Law
Cajun County, LLC et al. v. Certain Underwriter at Llloyd’s, London, et al.
Plaintiff sought insurance coverage under an all-risks commercial insurance policy for business income losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding no “direct physical loss of or damage to property” caused by COVID-19, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the appeal court and reinstated the trial court judgment denying coverage. View "Cajun County, LLC et al. v. Certain Underwriter at Llloyd's, London, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Health Law, Insurance Law, Louisiana Supreme Court
Miller, et al. v. Nodak Ins. Co.
Nodak Insurance Company (“Nodak”) appealed, and John D. Miller, Jr. d/b/a John Miller Farms, Inc. and JD Miller, Inc. (collectively, “Miller”) cross-appealed a judgment determining Miller’s insurance policy with Nodak provided coverage and awarding Miller damages. The dispute arose from Miller’s sale of seed potatoes to Johnson Farming Association, Inc. (“Johnson”). Miller operated a farm in Minto, North Dakota. During the 2015 planting season, Miller planted seed potatoes. Miller claimed a North Dakota State Seed Department representative inspected the field where the seed was being grown on July 13, July 26, and September 3, 2015, which indicated no problems with the seed crop. On or about September 3, 2015, Miller “killed the vines” in anticipation of and as required to harvest the seed crop. Miller harvested the seed crop between September 18 and September 25, 2015, and the harvested seed crop was immediately taken from the field to Miller’s storage facility south of Minto. n December 31, 2015, Miller and Johnson entered into a contract for the sale of seed potatoes. The contract for sale disclaimed any express or implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose and contained a limitation of consequential damages and remedies. In June or July 2016, Johnson informed Miller of problems with some of the seed potatoes he had purchased. Johnson stated an analysis definitively showed very high levels of the herbicide glyphosate, which caused the problems with the seed potatoes. The seed potatoes did not grow properly, and Johnson alleged damages as a result. It was undisputed the seed potatoes were damaged because an employee of Miller inadvertently contaminated the seed potatoes with glyphosate while they were growing on Miller’s Farm. In July 2016, Miller sought coverage for the loss from Nodak. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded a policy exclusion applied and precluded coverage, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the district court's judgment. View "Miller, et al. v. Nodak Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Agriculture Law, Business Law, Contracts, Insurance Law, North Dakota Supreme Court
Creation Supply, Inc. v. Hahn
Selective denied coverage of Creation's insurance claim. Creation sued for breach of contract and won. Creation then pursued costs and fees for Selective’s vexatious and unreasonable delay under the Illinois Insurance Code, 215 ILCS 5/155. The Seventh Circuit held that the remedy was unavailable. Creation then sued Selective’s in-house lawyer, the lawyer’s supervisor, and its outside counsel, alleging they tortiously interfered with the contract between Selective and Creation.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The suits were an attempt at double recovery—one from the principal and one from its agents. The corporate form limits, not doubles, liability. In Illinois, tortious interference requires some sort of interloper and precludes applying the economic loss doctrine to claims for tortious interference. Illinois provides a corporation’s agents with a conditional privilege, rooted in the business judgment rule, from tortious interference suits. When an agent acts in the corporation’s interests, she is protected from liability for interfering in her principal’s contractual affairs. When an agent interferes with a contract, she is presumed to do so for the company’s benefit. Under Illinois law, overcoming the privilege was Creation’s burden to plead, and its failure to do so with more than mere conclusory allegations dooms its suit. View "Creation Supply, Inc. v. Hahn" on Justia Law
Best Rest Motel, Inc. v. Sequoia Insurance Co.
This appeal from summary judgment in favor of Sequoia Insurance Company (Sequoia) was one of thousands of cases nationwide involving a claim for business interruption coverage arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outcome here turned on whether there was evidence creating a triable issue that the insured, Best Rest Motel, Inc. (Best Rest), sustained lost business income “due to the necessary ‘suspension’ ” of its operations “caused by direct physical loss of or damage” to the insured property. Best Rest contended its case fell directly within the exception discussed by the Court of Appeal in Inns-by-the-Sea v. California Mut. Ins. Co., 71 Cal.App.5th 688 (2021). Though the Court found Inns might undermine, if not entirely foreclose Best Rest’s case, the Court limited its holding by positing in dicta a “hypothetical scenario” where “an invisible airborne agent would cause a policyholder to suspend operations because of direct physical damage to property.” Here, the Court determined Best Rest's argument failed because the record contained no evidence creating a triable issue that the hotel “could have otherwise been operating” but for the presence of COVID-19 on the premises. Best Rest’s own evidence established the exact opposite was true: its vice president and operating partner testified that the phones were “ringing off the hook[ ]” with cancellations—not because of COVID-19 in the hotel, but because of government shut down orders and travel restrictions that shuttered tourism. Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment in the insurance company's favor because there was no evidence creating a triable issue that COVID-19 in the hotel caused the claimed lost income. View "Best Rest Motel, Inc. v. Sequoia Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Statewide Insurance Fund v. Star Insurance Company
This insurance coverage dispute between a public entity joint insurance fund (JIF) and Star Insurance Company (Star), a commercial general liability insurance company, turned on whether the JIF provided “insurance” to its members or, instead, the JIF members protect against liability through “self-insurance.” That distinction was pertinent here because Star’s insurance policy included a clause under which its coverage obligations began only after coverage available through “other insurance” has been exhausted; the clause, however, did not mention “self-insurance.” Star argued the JIF provided insurance and therefore Star’s coverage was excess to the JIF; the JIF disagreed, contending that because its members were instead “self-insured,” Star’s coverage was primary. The New Jersey Supreme Court found that under the plain language of N.J.S.A. 40A:10-48, a JIF “was not an insurance company or an insurer under New Jersey law, and its “authorized activities . . . do not constitute the transaction of insurance nor doing an insurance business.” By the statute’s plain terms, JIFs cannot provide insurance in exchange for premiums, as insurance companies typically do; instead, JIF members reduce insurance costs by pooling financial resources, distributing and retaining risk, and paying claims through member assessments. Therefore, JIFs protect members against liability through “self-insurance.” “Self-insurance” is not insurance. The Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the JIF and denial of summary judgment to Star. View "Statewide Insurance Fund v. Star Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Connecticut Dermatology Group, PC v. Twin City Fire Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in this dispute over whether a property insurance policy providing coverage for "direct physical loss of or physical damage to" covered property provided coverage for business income losses arising from the suspension of business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, holding that the trial court correctly granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment.Plaintiffs, who suspended their business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and consequently lost business income and incurred other expenses, filed claims for losses with Defendants. After Defendants denied the claims Plaintiffs brought this actin seeking a judgment declaring that the relevant insurance policies covered their economic losses under the circumstances. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiffs did not suffer any "direct physical loss" of covered property, there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the policies did not cover Plaintiffs' claims. View "Connecticut Dermatology Group, PC v. Twin City Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Connecticut Supreme Court, Contracts, Insurance Law
ResCap Liquidating Trust v. Primary Residential Mortgage
ResCap Liquidating Trust (“ResCap”) pursued indemnification claims against originator Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc. (“PRMI”), a Nevada corporation. ResCap asserted breach of contract and indemnification claims, seeking to recover a portion of the allowed bankruptcy claims for those holding units in the liquidating trust. The district court concluded that ResCap had established each element of its contractual indemnification claim. The district court awarded ResCap $10.6 million in attorney’s fees, $3.5 million in costs, $2 million in prejudgment interest, and $520,212 in what it termed “post-award prejudgment interest” for the period between entry of judgment and the order awarding attorney’s fees, costs, and prejudgment interest. Defendant appealed. The Eighth Circuit remanded for a recalculation of postjudgment interest but otherwise affirmed. The court explained that the district court held that, as a matter of Minnesota law governed by Section 549.09, a final judgment was not “finally entered” until its Judgment in a Civil Case resolving attorney’s fees, costs, and interest was entered on April 28, 2021, and therefore Minnesota’s ten percent prejudgment rate applied in the interim period. But Section 1961(a) does not say “final judgment,” it says “money judgment.” The district court, on August 17, 2020, entered a “money judgment.” Thus, the district court erred in applying Minnesota law to calculate interest after August 17, 2020, rather than 28 U.S.C. Section 1961(a). View "ResCap Liquidating Trust v. Primary Residential Mortgage" on Justia Law