Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Liberty Insurance Corporation (“Liberty”) sought to rely on a general coverage exclusion, it was aware that its policy also contained an exception to the general exclusion if the Defendant homeowners, could show that the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) was not subject to motor vehicle registration and was used to “service” their cabin. One of Defendant homeowners was the only witness who testified during a bench trial.   After the trial concluded, the district court (at Liberty’s request) imposed Rule 37(c)(1) sanctions on Defendants for failing to disclose a witness. The district court also excluded one of the homeowner’s testimony about whether the ATV was registered and used to service the cabin, based on the theory that he had not been properly disclosed as a witness. The district court ruled that ATV was used to service the cabin at any time,” and thus found that the Defendants were not entitled to coverage.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order imposing sanctions and remanded for a new trial. The court held that because Defendants complied with Rule 26(a)(1)(A)(i)’s requirement to disclose “individuals likely to have discoverable information—along with the subjects of that information” for the purpose of identifying potential fact witnesses, sanctions under Rule 37(c)(1) were not justified. But even Defendants had not complied with Rule 26, the district court abused its discretion by imposing Rule 37(c)(1) sanctions without analyzing (1) whether the alleged defects in the disclosures were harmless and (2) whether the defects involved willfulness, fault, or bad faith. View "LIBERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION V. YVONNE BRODEUR" on Justia Law

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Affirming the district court’s summary judgment in favor of National Railroad Passenger Corporation and other railroad companies, the Ninth Circuit held that, as to railroad employees, the federal Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act preempts California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, which requires employers to provide employees with paid sick leave that they may use for specified purposes.   RUIA provides unemployment and sickness benefits to railroad employees, and it contains an express preemption provision disallowing railroad employees from having any right to “sickness benefits under a sickness law of any State.” Looking at the plain meaning of the statutory text, the court concluded that the preemption provision broadly refers to compensation or other assistance provided to employees in connection with physical or mental well-being. The court concluded that RUIA’s statutory framework and stated purposes confirm the breadth of its preemptive effect.   The court found unpersuasive an argument by the California Labor Commissioner and union-intervenors that RUIA does not preempt the California Act as to railroad employees because the benefits the Act offers are different in kind than RUIA’s benefits. The court also found unpersuasive (1) an argument that RUIA should be interpreted as preempting only the kinds of state laws that existed at the time RUIA was amended to provide for sickness benefits; and (2) various textual arguments in support of a narrower interpretation of the preemption provision. View "NAT'L RAILROAD PASSENGER CORP. V. JULIE SU" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Independent Pharmacies Association (“LIPA”) sued Express Scripts on behalf of its members, seeking a declaratory judgment on whether La. Rev. Stat. Ann. Sections 22:1860.1 and 46:2625 are preempted by Medicare Part D.1 Express Scripts moved to dismiss LIPA’s request for declaratory judgment regarding the reimbursement provision for failure to state a claim, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), on the basis that Medicare Part D preempts the reimbursement provision for prescriptions covered by Part D plans The district court concluded, however, that Express Scripts failed “to meet its burden of showing preemption or any other basis for dismissal.” Express Scripts moved to certify the order denying its motion to dismiss for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. Section1292(b). The district court granted certification,   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s order concluding that the court lacks both federal question and diversity jurisdiction. The court explained that here, LIPA seeks a declaration that Express Scripts’ state law and related contractual obligation to reimburse LIPA’s member pharmacies for the provider fee is not preempted by federal law. Applying the well-pleaded complaint rule requires the court to imagine a hypothetical coercive lawsuit brought by Express Scripts against LIPA’s member pharmacies. But none is conceivable, thus, because Express Scripts has no possible ground for a coercive lawsuit, no federal question arises for purposes of jurisdiction in LIPA’s declaratory judgment case. Accordingly, the court concluded that LIPA must make the same showing to satisfy the amount in controversy requirement. View "LA Indep Pharmacies v. Express Scripts" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review centered on whether Appellant’s legal malpractice claims against Appellees, her former attorneys, were barred under the Court’s decision in Muhammad v. Strassburger, McKenna, Messer, Shilobod & Gutnick, 587 A.2d 1346 (Pa. 1991), which held that a plaintiff could not sue his attorney on the basis of the adequacy of a settlement to which the plaintiff agreed, unless the plaintiff alleged the settlement was the result of fraud. Appellant, Dr. Ahlam Kahlil, owned a unit in the Pier 3 Condominiums in Philadelphia; the unit was insured by State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (“State Farm”). The Pier 3 Condominium Association (“Pier 3”) was insured under a master policy issued by Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (“Travelers”). In May 2007, Appellant sustained water damage to her unit as a result of a leak in the unit directly above hers, which was owned by Jason and Anne Marie Diegidio. Due to the water damage, Appellant moved out of her unit and stopped paying her condominium fees. Appellant filed suit against State Farm and Travelers, alleging breach of contract and bad faith, and against the Diegidios, alleging negligence. A year later, Pier 3 filed a separate lawsuit against Appellant for her unpaid condominium fees and charges. In affirming in part and reversing in part the trial court, the Supreme Court found that by finding Appellant’s claims were barred under Muhammad, the lower courts ignored other averments in Appellant’s complaint which did not allege fraud, but, rather, alleged legal malpractice by Appellees in allowing Appellant to enter into a settlement agreement in the Water Damage Case that subsequently precluded her from raising her desired claims in the Fees Case, while repeatedly advising Appellant that the settlement agreement would not preclude those claims. "[A]s our review of Appellant’s complaint demonstrates that she was not merely challenging the amount of her settlement in the Water Damage Case, but rather alleged that Appellees provided incorrect legal advice regarding the scope and effect the Travelers Release, we hold that Muhammad’s bar on lawsuits based on the adequacy of a settlement is not implicated in this case." View "Khalil v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Thompsons own property in Sonoma County that is subject to a conservation easement (Civ. Code 815) in favor of SLT, which prohibits any impairment of the land’s conservation values. SLT sued, alleging that the Thompsons had done work on the parcel that caused damage in violation of the conservation easement. The Thompsons tendered defense of the action to Burlington Insurance, which declined the tender on the ground that the action did not arise from an “occurrence,” defined as an “accident.” The Ninth Circuit upheld the denial of coverage.While that appeal was pending, the Thompsons tendered defense of the action to Crestbrook and Nationwide, under policies identical in relevant part to the Burlington policy. The insurers declined the tender. The trial court ultimately upheld the denial of coverage. The California court of appeal affirmed. The federal court judgment precludes relitigation of whether the SLT action arose from an “accident” within the meaning of the two insurers’ policies. The issue here is identical to the issue in the Burlington litigation. No material change in the law since the Burlington judgment diminishes its preclusive effect and there is no unfairness in affording the Burlington judgment preclusive effect. View "Thompson v. Crestbrook Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Ila Reid appealed a district court’s summary judgment dismissal of her breach of contract claim against Primerica Life Insurance Company (“Primerica”). Reid brought her claim after Primerica filed an interpleader action to resolve competing claims to her late husband Garvin Reid’s life insurance beneficiary proceeds. She contended Primerica acted unfairly in multiple ways to create the controversy and thus the district court should not have permitted Primerica to use interpleader as a shield against her breach of contract claim. Finding no reversible error, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s summary judgment order in favor of Primerica. View "Primerica Life Insurance Co. v. Reid" on Justia Law

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Lia Kazan (“Lia”) visited an Alexandria, Louisiana motel to meet some friends. During the course of her visit, she went went to the motel parking lot to retrieve something from her vehicle. Anthony Murray, another motel guest, exited his room and approached the vehicle with Lia inside. Audio from the camera footage recorded Lia screaming “stop,” “no,” and calling for help accompanied by repeated honking of the vehicle’s horn. Murray then started the ignition and, with Lia in the passenger seat, reversed out of the parking lot onto the service road. The vehicle was later found submerged in Lake Dubuisson – the bodies of Murray and Lia were recovered in the water. Lia’s death was classified as a homicidal drowning. Ali Kazan and Ebony Medlin filed suit, individually, and on behalf of their daughter, Lia (collectively “Plaintiffs”) against several parties, including the motel’s owner, Vitthal, LLC, and its insurer, Great Lakes Insurance Company SE (“Great Lakes”), seeking damages for Lia’s kidnapping and death. In response, Great Lakes filed a petition for declaratory judgment averring it had no obligation under the operable commercial general liability policy (“the CGL Policy”) to defend or indemnify the other defendants. Great Lakes moved for summary judgment on its petition arguing the CGL Policy contained an exclusion – specifically defining “assault,” “battery,” and “physical altercation” – which barred coverage for Lia’s kidnapping and death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether an insurance policy, by its own terms, excluded coverage for damages arising from a kidnapping resulting in death. The Court found the clear and unambiguous language of the relevant policy exclusion barred coverage. View "Kazan et al. v. Red Lion Hotels Corporation, et al." on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether a stamped signature on an uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage rejection form, affixed by the administrative assistant of the corporate insured’s owner and president, complied with the statutory requirement that the UM form be signed by the named insured or his legal representative. Because the stamped signature was affixed on behalf of the legal representative and not by the legal representative himself, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeal that the lack of prior written authorization to the administrative assistant rendered the UM form invalid. View "Havard v. JeanLouis, et al." on Justia Law

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Brown’s company, TME, owned the House of Blues recording studio in Memphis and leased a studio to Falls. Hanover issued separate insurance policies to TME and Falls. Intruders vandalized and burgled the studio, and committed arson. Hanover made advance payments to TME and Falls, then discovered that Brown had submitted false receipts and had been the target of several similar arson incidents. Hanover sued Brown, TME, and Falls, seeking recovery of the prepaid funds and a declaratory judgment. A jury returned a verdict against Brown but found that Falls was entitled to recover the full insurance coverage. Hanover unsuccessfully moved to overturn that verdict because TME was named as an additional insured on Falls’s policy and his policy voided coverage if “you or any other insured” misrepresented a material fact. Meanwhile, Falls sought monetary damages and declaratory relief against Brown and TME in Tennessee state court.Hanover filed an interpleader complaint against Brown, TME, and Falls in federal court, requesting that the court find the insurance award void under Tennessee public policy or, alternatively, determine to whom Hanover should pay the award. The district court enjoined Falls’s state court action, citing the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 2283, The Sixth Circuit reversed. The Act allows an injunction only for necessity, not simply for efficiency. Because the district court proceedings were not in rem, an injunction was not “necessary” to aid the district court’s jurisdiction. View "Hanover American Insurance Co. v. Tattooed Millionaire Entertainment, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-homeowners Dylan O’Malley-Joyce and Eileen Nash appealed a superior court order granting the summary judgment motion filed by defendant Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company (the insurer), on their claims for damages and declaratory relief. The insured residence was damaged by two leaks — one in November 2017 and the other in early January 2018. The homeowners filed claims under the policy as to both leaks. Thereafter, the parties disagreed about the cost and scope of repairs. In November 2018, the insurer sought to settle the parties’ dispute by providing a contractor “who [was] willing and able to complete the work” and by “paying up to the replacement cost figures on the [contractor’s] estimates less the deductibles for each of the claims.” The policy’s appraisal provision provided, in pertinent part, that if the parties “fail to agree on the amount of loss, either may demand an appraisal of the loss.” Because the parties were unable to reach an agreement, the insurer demanded that they participate in the appraisal process set forth in the homeowners’ policy. In November 2019, the homeowners brought a two-claim complaint against the insurer. In one claim, the homeowners sought a declaratory judgment, and in the other, they sought damages for “breach of contract, bad faith, statutory violations.” Because, on appeal, the homeowners did not contest the grant of summary judgment on either their claim for declaratory judgment or their claim that the insurer violated certain statutes, the New Hampshire Supreme Court focused solely on their claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Because the homeowners filed neither an objection to the insurer’s summary judgment motion nor a motion to reconsider the trial court’s order, the Supreme Court determined they failed to preserve their appellate arguments for review. Nonetheless, the Court reviewed their arguments for plain error, and finding no plain error, the Court affirmed. View "O'Malley-Joyce v. Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Co." on Justia Law