Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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Amy’s employs 2,500 people to manufacture vegetarian meals. It purchased comprehensive property insurance from Fireman’s for a period ending in July 2020. The policy included coverage extensions for communicable diseases and for loss avoidance and mitigation: Fireman’s “will pay for direct physical loss or damage to Property" caused by or resulting from a "communicable disease event at a location.” The policy defines “communicable disease event” as one in which “a public health authority has ordered that a location be evacuated, decontaminated, or disinfected due to the outbreak of a communicable disease.” Amy’s incurred costs “to mitigate, contain, clean, disinfect, monitor, and test for the effects of” the coronavirus at insured locations, and to avoid or mitigate potential coronavirus-related losses, including temperature-screening equipment to test for COVID, protective shields to prevent transmission on assembly lines, masks and goggles, cleaning supplies, and “hero pay.” People with confirmed COVID-19 cases were on Amy’s premises. The complaint cited “various require[d safety measures] for all essential businesses.”Fireman’s denied Amy’s claim. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Under communicable disease extension, the need to clean or disinfect infected or potentially infected covered property constitutes “direct physical loss or damage” of the property; Amy’s has not pled a “communicable disease event” but should be given leave to amend to do so. View "Amy's Kitchen, Inc. v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Cope, injured on a Kentucky job site, filed a workers’ compensation claim. The subcontractor who hired him for the project, CMC, is based in Southern Indiana, and had an insurance policy with AFICA. Schultheis Insurance Agency procured the policy for CMC, but failed to inform AFICA that CMC did business in Kentucky. AFICA sought a declaration that its policy does not cover Cope’s claim.The district court granted AFICA summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain text of the policy is unambiguous: because CMC failed to notify AFICA until after Cope’s accident that it was working in Kentucky, AFICA is not liable for Cope’s workers’ compensation claim. The policy states : “If you have work on the effective date of this policy in any state [other than Indiana], coverage will not be afforded for that state unless we are notified within thirty days.” View "Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Schultheis Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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Insured Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. and insurer Huntington Ingalls Industries Risk Management LLC seek a declaratory judgment stating there is coverage under a property insurance policy for certain losses incurred by Huntington Ingalls Industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial court concluded that the complaint did not allege facts that would trigger coverage under the policy and granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of reinsurers. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court disagreed, reversed the trial court. and remanded for further proceedings. View "Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. et al. v. Ace American Insurance Company et al." on Justia Law

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Cherokee Nation filed a declaratory judgment action seeking insurance coverage under the business interruption provision of a policy issued by a number of insurers for the economic losses it incurred when it temporarily closed its properties due to the threat of COVID-19. The district court granted Cherokee Nation's motion for partial summary judgment, holding the phrase "direct physical loss" in the business interruption provision of the policy included coverage for losses sustained by property rendered unusable for its intended purpose. The district court also found that none of the exclusions raised by the insurers applied to Cherokee Nation's loss. The insurers appealed, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal, holding that Cherokee Nation's losses were not covered under the business interruption section of the insurance policy at issue. The district court erred in finding business interruption coverage when Cherokee Nation did not sustain immediate, tangible deprivation or destruction of property. View "Cherokee Nation v. Lexington Insurance Co., et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that S.D. Codified Laws 58-29B-56 provides a state insurance liquidator an additional 180 days to provide a notice of a claim under a claims-made professional liability policy.The South Dakota Director of Insurance filed a petition for an order of liquidation of ReliaMax Surety Company (RSC), a subsidiary of ReliaMax Holding Company (RHC). The circuit court declared RSC to be insolvent and directed the company's liquidation. The state insurance liquidator (Liquidator) later commenced the underlying action against the directors and officers (D&O) of RSC and RHC. Under a settlement agreement, the Liquidator was granted a final judgment, agreeing not to execute upon and instead receiving an assignment of the D&Os' claims for coverage under a policy issued by SL Specialty. The Liquidator then brought this action against XL Speciality. At issue was the timeliness of the Liquidator's claim seeking D&O coverage. The district court certified questions of law to the Supreme Court. The Court held that section 58-29B-56 provides a state insurance liquidator an additional 180 days to provide notice of a claim under a claims-made professional liability policy. View "Deiter v. XL Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The United States Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. Cox Construction was the general contractor of a remodeling project. Cox hired Baker & Son Construction, Inc. as a subcontractor. A Baker employee allegedly caused a two-by-four to fall from a railing and strike Ronnie Cox, owner of Cox Construction, who later died from his injury. Baker allegedly called an insurance agent to alert them of the incident. The agent told Baker that no action needed to be taken because at that time, no claim existed. A few months later, Baker received a wrongful death claim from an attorney representing Cox’s widow. Baker notified its insurer, Preferred Contractors Insurance Company (PCIC) of the claim. PCIC denied coverage, but agreed to defend Baker under a reservation of rights. The certified question to the Washington Supreme Court related to the “claims-made” nature of the policy and the timing of Baker’s tender of Ms. Cox’s claim. The Supreme Court replied to the certified question that in light of RCW 18.27, a contractor’s commercial general liability insurance policy that requires the loss to occur and be reported within the same policy year, and provides neither neither prospective nor retroactive coverage violates Washington’s public policy. View "Preferred Contractors Ins. Co. v. Baker & Son Constr., Inc." on Justia Law

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MSPA Claims 1 LLC—the assignee of a now-defunct Medicare Advantage Organization—sued Tower Hill Prime Insurance Company to recover a reimbursable payment. The district court granted Tower Hill’s motion for summary judgment because it determined that MSPA Claims 1’s suit was untimely.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that because it is at least “plausible” that the term “accrues” in Section 1658(a) incorporates an occurrence rule—in fact, and setting presumptions aside, the court wrote that it thinks that’s the best interpretation—that is how the court interprets it. Therefore, MSPA Claims 1’s cause of action accrued in 2012 when MSPA Claims 1’s assignor, Florida Healthcare, paid D.L.’s medical bills and became entitled to reimbursement through the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. Because that was more than four years before MSPA Claims 1 filed suit in 2018, its suit is not timely under 28 U.S.C. Section 1658(a). View "MSPA Claims 1, LLC. v. Tower Hill Prime Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on an exclusionary clause in a commercial general liability insurance policy issued by Admiral Insurance Company (Admiral) to Richfield Window Coverings, LLC (Richfield). Richfield sold window coverage products, including blinds, to national retailers like Home Depot and provided retailers with machines to cut the blinds to meet the specifications of the retailers’ customers. Colleen Lorito, an employee of a Home Depot located in Nassau County, was injured while operating the blind cutting machine. She and her husband filed a civil action against Richfield, asserting claims for product liability, breach of warranty, and loss of spousal services. Admiral denied any obligation to defend or indemnify, asserting the claims were not covered under the policy based on the Designated New York Counties Exclusion of the insurance policy. Richfield filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to compel Admiral to defend it in the Lorito case and, if necessary, indemnify it against any monetary damages awarded to the plaintiffs. The Law Division granted summary judgment in favor of Admiral. The Appellate Division reversed, finding that “Richfield’s limited activities and operations have no causal relationship to the causes of action or allegations.” The Supreme Court found that the policy’s broad and unambiguous language made clear that a causal relationship was not required in order for the exclusionary clause to apply; rather, any claim “in any way connected with” the insured’s operations or activities in a county identified in the exclusionary clause was not covered under the policy. Richfield’s operations in an excluded county were alleged to be connected with the injuries for which recovery was sought, so the exclusion applied. Admiral had no duty to defend a claim that it is not contractually obligated to indemnify. View "Norman International, Inc. v. Admiral Insurance Company " on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified a question of law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Sullivan Management, LLC operated restaurants in South Carolina and filed suit to recover for business interruption losses during COVID-19 under a commercial property insurance policy issued by Fireman's Fund and Allianz Global Risks US Insurance Company (Fireman's). Specifically, the questions was whether the presence of COVID-19 in or near Sullivan's properties, and/or related governmental orders, which allegedly hinder or destroy the fitness, habitability or functionality of property, constituted "direct physical loss or damage" or did "direct physical loss or damage" require some permanent dispossession of the property or physical alteration to the property. The Supreme Court held that the presence of COVID-19 and the corresponding government orders prohibiting indoor dining did not fall within the policy’s trigger language of “direct physical loss or damage.” View "Sullivan Mgmt v. Fireman's Fund" on Justia Law

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AFM ran 52 mattress stores in Indiana and Illinois. Motorists insured AFM with a policy covering loss of Business Income, Extra Expense, and loss due to actions of a Civil Authority. An exclusion applicable to all coverage stated: We will not pay for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any virus, bacterium or other microorganism that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the governors of Illinois and Indiana ordered the closure of businesses. AFM was forced to cease business activities at all of its stores. AFM submitted a claim for coverage. Motorists denied it.AFM sought a declaratory judgment in Illinois state court. The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, based on the Virus Exclusion, rejecting a claim of “regulatory estoppel.” AFM claimed that Motorists misrepresented the Virus Exclusion to the Illinois Department of Insurance so that the regulators would approve it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Illinois does not recognize regulatory estoppel. The Virus Exclusion unambiguously precludes “civil authority” coverage. View "AFM Mattress Company, LLC v. Motorists Commercial Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law