Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
Team Industrial Services v. Zurich American Insurance Company, et al.
Plaintiff Team Industrial Services, Inc. (Team) suffered a $222 million judgment against it in a wrongful-death lawsuit arising out of a steam-turbine failure in June 2018 at a Westar Energy, Inc. (Westar) power plant. Team sought liability coverage from Westar, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), and two other insurance companies, arguing that it was, or should have been, provided protection by Westar’s Owner-Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP) through insurance policies issued by Zurich and the two other insurers. Team’s claims derived from the fact that its liability for the failure at the Westar power plant arose from work that had previously been performed by Furmanite America, Inc. (Furmanite), which had coverage under Westar’s OCIP. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants, and Team appealed. Not persuaded by Team's arguments for reversal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Team Industrial Services v. Zurich American Insurance Company, et al." on Justia Law
Ex parte Insurance Express, LLC, et al.
Petitioners Insurance Express, LLC ("Insurance Express"), Wayne Taylor, and Julie Singley sought a writ of mandamus to direct a circuit court to vacate an order staying the underlying action against defendants Lynne Ernest Insurance, LLC ("LEI"), Lynne Ernest, Chynna Ernest, and Deadra Stokley. According to the complaint, Lynne and Stokley were longtime employees of Insurance Express. It alleged that they, while still employed by Insurance Express, entered Insurance Express's office after business hours and, without authorization, made electronic copies of various business records related to Insurance Express's clients and insurance policies. Lynne and Stokley resigned soon after and began employment with LEI, which purportedly had been formed by Lynne and Chynna and was a direct competitor of Insurance Express. Lynne and Stokley, it is alleged, then induced some Insurance Express clients to transfer their policies to LEI. Insurance Express sought injunctive relief to, among other things, prevent defendants from communicating with past or current customers of Insurance Express and to require defendants to return any customer information taken by them. It further sought damages for breach of contract, conversion, intentional interference with business relations, breach of fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found petitioners established they had a clear legal right to the relief they sought. The Court granted their petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order granting a stay. View "Ex parte Insurance Express, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Monarch Casino & Resort v. Affiliated FM Insurance Company
Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc. appealed a district court’s grant of Affiliated FM Insurance Company’s (“AFM”) motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, which denied Monarch coverage under AFM’s all-risk policy provision, business-interruption provision, and eight other additional-coverage provisions. Monarch also moved the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to certify a question of state law or issue a stay. Monarch presented AFM with claims incurred through business interruption losses from COVID-19 and government orders directing Monarch to close its casinos. AFM denied certain coverage on the ground that COVID-19 did not cause physical loss of or damage to property. Monarch sued for breach of contract, bad faith breach of insurance contract, and violations of state law. The Tenth Circuit denied Monarch’s motions to certify a question of state law and issue a stay. And it affirmed the district court’s judgment: (1) AFM’s policy had a Contamination Exclusion provision that excludes all-risk coverage and business-interruption coverage from the COVID-19 virus; and (2) Monarch could not obtain coverage for physical loss or damage caused by COVID-19 under AFM’s all-risk provision, business-interruption provision, or eight additional-coverage provisions because the virus could not cause physical loss or damage and no other policy provisions distinguished this case. Accordingly, Monarch could not obtain the coverage that the district court denied. View "Monarch Casino & Resort v. Affiliated FM Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. District Court
The Supreme Court held that a commercial property insurance policy did not provide coverage for the economic losses JGB Vegas Retail Lessee, LLC suffered when COVID-19 forced JGB to shut down abruptly.JGB was insured under a policy with Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. amidst the closures and accompanying financial troubles of the COVID-19 pandemic, JGB filed a claim with Starr seeking coverage for lost business income, extra expenses, and other applicable coverage. When Starr did not respond JGB brought suit, claiming that the presence of COVID-19 on the property created the requisite "direct physical loss or damage" covered under the policy. Starr moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted in part. Thereafter, Starr filed the instant petition seeking a writ of mandamus challenging the denial of summary judgment on the remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court erred in denying summary judgment because JGB's claims for losses resulting from COVID-19 were excluded from coverage. View "Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. District Court" on Justia Law
THE OREGON CLINIC, PC V. FIREMAN’S FUND INS. CO.
This appeal arises out of a commercial property insurance policy (“Policy”) that Oregon Clinic, P.C. (“Oregon Clinic”) purchased from Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company (“Fireman’s Fund”). The Policy provides Oregon Clinic, a medical provider with more than fifty locations in Oregon, with coverage for a reduction of business income only if its insured property suffers “direct physical loss or damage.” In March 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Oregon Clinic, like hundreds of other insured businesses nationwide, sought coverage under its Policy. It alleged that it suffered “direct physical loss or damage” because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related governmental orders that prevented it from fully making use of its insured property. Fireman’s Fund denied coverage. Oregon Clinic then sued Fireman’s Fund in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. At Oregon Clinic’s request, the Ninth Circuit certified to the Oregon Supreme Court the interpretation of “direct physical loss or damage” under Oregon law and stayed proceedings. The Oregon Supreme Court declined the certification request. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that the Oregon Supreme Court would interpret “direct physical loss or damage” to require physical alteration of property, consistent with the interpretation reached by most courts nationwide. Because Oregon Clinic failed to state a claim under this interpretation and because the amendment would be futile, the panel affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "THE OREGON CLINIC, PC V. FIREMAN'S FUND INS. CO." on Justia Law
The Bert Company v. Turk, et al.
The Bert Company, dba Northwest Insurance Services (“Northwest”), was an insurance brokerage firm with clientele in northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York. From 2005 to 2017, Matthew Turk (“Turk”) was employed as an insurance broker with Northwest. First National Insurance Agency, LLC (“FNIA” or "First National") was an insurance brokerage firm. To grow its business in that region, First National developed a plan to takeover Northwest, initially by convincing key Northwest employees to leave Northwest for FNIA and to bring their clients with them. Through the fall and winter of 2016, Turk repeatedly met with First National about the plan with the hope that First National could gut Northwest by hiring the bulk of its highest producers, acquiring their clients, and ultimately forcing that company to sell its remaining book of clients. Pursuant to the plan, Turk remained at Northwest to convince the company to sell its remaining business to First National. Northwest refused, choosing instead to fire Turk and initiate legal action. In this appeal by permission, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court opined on the jurisprudence of the United State Supreme Court addressing the constitutionality of an award of punitive damages by a civil jury in the Commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Court's grant of allowance addressed the narrow issue of the appropriate ratio calculation measuring the relationship between the amount of punitive damages awarded against multiple defendants who are joint tortfeasors and the compensatory damages awarded. The superior court calculated the punitive to compensatory damages ratio using a per-defendant approach, rather than a per-judgment approach. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court generally endorsed the per-defendant approach as consistent with federal constitutional principles that require consideration of a defendant’s due process rights. Further, the Court concluded that under the facts and circumstances of this case, it was appropriate to consider the potential harm that was likely to occur from the concerted conduct of the defendants in determining whether the measure of punishment was both reasonable and proportionate. View "The Bert Company v. Turk, et al." on Justia Law
Cal. Medical Assn. v. Aetna Health of Cal., Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the judgment of the court of appeal granting summary judgment for the defense in this lawsuit brought by the California Medical Association (CMA), holding that the evidence was sufficient to create triable issues of fact precluding summary judgment.CMA, a nonprofit professional association representing California physicians, sued Aetna Health of California Inc. alleging that Aetna violated the unfair competition law (UCL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200 et seq., by engaging in unlawful business practices. At issue was whether Aetna satisifed the UCL's standing requirements by diverting its resources to combat allegedly unfair competition. The Supreme Court held (1) the UCL’s standing requirements are satisfied when an organization, in furtherance of a bona fide, preexisting mission, incurs costs to respond to perceived unfair competition that threatens that mission, so long as those expenditures are independent of costs incurred in UCL litigation or preparations for such litigation; and (2) the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for Aetna on the ground that CMA lacked standing. View "Cal. Medical Assn. v. Aetna Health of Cal., Inc." on Justia Law
Concord Baptist Church of Jefferson City v. Church Mutual Insurance Company
In March 2020, Concord Baptist Church of Jefferson City, Inc. (Concord Baptist) sustained damage to its facilities in a severe storm. After disagreements with its insurer, Church Mutual Insurance Company (Church Mutual), regarding the amount of loss, Concord Baptist initiated this action, alleging breach of contract and vexatious refusal to pay. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Church Mutual, concluding that the undisputed facts demonstrated that Concord Baptist failed to comply with a cooperation clause contained in the insurance policy, which precluded coverage. Concord Baptist appealed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that because Concord Baptist admits that it materially breached the policy, the court need not address Concord Baptist’s argument regarding whether the failure to submit to an EUO was a material breach. However, the court noted that Missouri courts have found a material breach where an insured failed to submit to an EUO before commencing an action against the insurer. Regarding the second element, whether Church Mutual suffered substantial prejudice from Concord Baptist’s material breach, the court agreed with the district court that the undisputed facts show that it did. Finally, as to the third element, whether Church Mutual exercised reasonable diligence in attempting to procure Concord Baptist’s cooperation, the court again agreed with the district court that the undisputed facts demonstrate Church Mutual’s diligence. View "Concord Baptist Church of Jefferson City v. Church Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Westfield Insurance Company v. Selective Insurance Company
This dispute involves several insurers and one defendant insurer’s alleged duty to defend a lawsuit brought against a general contractor of a residential building project. The district court entered partial summary judgment, holding that the defendant insurer had a duty to defend the general contractor in the underlying action for construction defects. The court also issued a stay of other issues raised by the parties, and administratively closed the case. After the defendant insurer filed the present appeal, the underlying action was resolved in a settlement agreement. The Fourth Circuit concluded that it lacks jurisdiction to consider the present interlocutory appeal challenging the defendant insurer’s duty to defend the general contractor. Therefore, the court dismissed the appeal. The court explained that while the relief granted in the district court’s order originally may have been prospective in nature, the resolution of the underlying action has eliminated from that order any forward-looking mandate. Thus, the court explained that the order before the court in this appeal currently lacks the character of an injunction and does not require the court to consider any question separate from issues that may be appealed after entry of a final judgment in the district court. View "Westfield Insurance Company v. Selective Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Penn-Star Insurance Company v. Thompson, et al.
Penn-Star Insurance Company (Penn-Star) appealed a trial court’s denial of its motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found after review of the trial court record that because the commercial general liability policy at issue did not cover the sustained losses, the trial court’s order was reversed, judgment was rendered in favor of Penn-Star, and this case was remanded to the trial court for consideration of the remaining issues. View "Penn-Star Insurance Company v. Thompson, et al." on Justia Law