Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
GWG DLP Funding V, LLC v. PHL Variable Insurance Co.
GWG DLP Funding V, LLC was the policy owner and beneficiary of a life insurance policy issued by PHL Variable Insurance Company. After GWG transferred beneficiary rights and ownership to Wells Fargo, PHL terminated the policy. GWG and Wells Fargo disputed the termination, and the parties attempted to settle the dispute. After some negotiations, the insured died, and PHL refused to honor the alleged agreement the parties had reached. GWG and Wells Fargo sued PHL for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and sought a declaratory judgment that prevents PHL from terminating the policy. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s dismissal of their claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the alleged agreement in early February was incomplete and that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for breach of contract. Further, the court wrote that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. First, there is no enforceable agreement based on the email exchange. Thus, there was no contract under which PHL could have breached the duty of good faith. Second, even if the parties were bound by the early February communications, Plaintiffs alleged no dishonest motive on PHL’s part. View "GWG DLP Funding V, LLC v. PHL Variable Insurance Co." on Justia Law
St. Matthews Church of God & Christ v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.
In this insurance coverage dispute the Supreme Court held that State Farm Fire and Casualty Company was not required to cover repair costs to masonry under either Minn. Stat. 65A.10, subd. 1 or the State Farm policy at issue.Before the Supreme Court was the interpretation and application of Minn. Stat. 65A.10, subd. 1, which generally requires replacement cost insurance to cover the cost of repairing damaged property in accordance with state or local authorities' minimum code. Specifically in question was whether State Farm must cover the cost of repairing cracks in masonry that preexisted a storm that damaged the property of St. Matthews. Because the cracks violated the City of St. Paul's building code, the City would not allow St. Matthews to replace the drywall without also repairing the masonry. The district court granted summary judgment to State Farm, determining that because the storm did not damage the masonry, which led to the code upgrade requirements, no coverage existed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, while State Farm was responsible for providing replacement cost coverage to the damaged drywall, it was not required to cover repair costs to the masonry. View "St. Matthews Church of God & Christ v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Motorists Commercial Mutual Insurance Co. v. Hartwell
The First Circuit affirmed the conclusion of the district court conclusion that the insurance policy issued by Motorists Commercial Mutual Insurance Company to the dealership that owned a motor vehicle that killed and injured several people did cover the accident at issue in this case, holding that the district court did not err.This dispute arose from an auction at which a motor vehicle being displayed for bidding suddenly accelerated into a group of auction attendees, killing five people and injuring several more. Motorists brought this action seeking a declaration that its policies did not provide coverage for the victims' claims against the auctioneer or its employee who was behind the wheel of the vehicle when it struck the victims. The district court granted summary judgment for Motorists. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the policies at issue did not provide coverage for the accident. View "Motorists Commercial Mutual Insurance Co. v. Hartwell" on Justia Law
Lionbridge Technologies, LLC v. Valley Forge Insurance Co.
The First Circuit reversed the ruling of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of a general liability insurer (Insurer) and dismissing Insured's complaint seeking full coverage of its defense when the company faced a trade secrets lawsuit brought by a competitor, holding that Insured was entitled to summary judgment on the duty to defend.Insured brought this action after Insurer only paid for some of Insured's defense. Insurer counterclaimed seeking a declaratory judgment of absolution from policy coverage. During discovery, both parties moved to compel responses. A magistrate judge denied Insurer's request for information exchanged between Insured and its lawyers and then stayed discovery until it ruled on cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court then granted summary judgment for Insurer. The First Circuit held (1) the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Insurer, and Insured was entitled to summary judgment on the duty to defend; (2) on the reasonableness of the defense, the case is remanded for further proceedings; and (3) the district court correctly granted Insurer's motion to compel. View "Lionbridge Technologies, LLC v. Valley Forge Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Ball v. United Financial Casualty Co.
The Supreme Court answered a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concerning the amount of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage, if any, that Insurer must provide to a non-employee permissive user of an insured vehicle who caused personal injuries to an employee of a named insured under a standard commercial automobile insurance policy.The Fourth Circuit determined that an employee indemnification and employer's liability's exclusion in the policy at issue was void and unenforceable under the mandatory omnibus requirements of W. Va. Code 33-6-31(a). The Supreme Court answered (1) the void exclusion may not be invoked to limit the amount of coverage available to a permissive user of a vehicle insured by Insurer's policy; and (2) Insurer must afford the permissive user with liability coverage up to the full limits available under the insurance policy for any proven damages. View "Ball v. United Financial Casualty Co." on Justia Law
McDowell v. Allstate Vehicle & Property Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company's decision to rescind an insurance policy purchased for a derelict house Homeowner intended to remodel, holding that questions of material fact existed precluding summary judgment.After a fire occurred, damaging the house and some of its contents, Allstate announced that it was rescinding the homeowners' insurance policy issued to Homeowner, asserting that Homeowner digitally signed an application in which he falsely answered a request as to whether he would occupy the house within thirty days. Plaintiffs, including Homeowner, sued Allstate for breach of contract and unfair trade practices. The circuit court granted Allstate's motion to rescind the policy, concluding that there was no factual dispute that Homeowner had made false statements on his insurance application. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that questions of material fact existed regarding whether Plaintiff's answer to Allstate's thirty-day-occupancy question was false and whether the question was material to Allstate's issuance of the policy. View "McDowell v. Allstate Vehicle & Property Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Hiscox Dedicated Corp Member v. Suzan Taylor
After Defendant’s Arkansas home burned to the ground, her insurer, Hiscox Dedicated Corporate Member Limited (a "capital provider" to an underwriting syndicate doing business within the Lloyd's of London insurance marketplace), declined to pay her for her loss and instead rescinded the insurance policy because she had made material misrepresentations in her insurance application. Hiscox then sued Defendant in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had properly rescinded the policy and had no obligation to Defendant. The district court agreed with Hiscox and granted it summary judgment. The relevant question is whether Defendant "had a foreclosure, repossession, bankruptcy or filed for bankruptcy during the past five (5) years." Defendant maintains that the district court erred in concluding that the phrase "had a foreclosure" meant the initiation of foreclosure proceedings. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court agreed with Defendant that the question is ambiguous. Under Arkansas law, the court read the question in its "plain, ordinary, and popular sense," as "the common usage of terms should prevail". Further, the court wrote it sees no indication in any case that the parties meant to adopt Arkansas statutes as the standard to determine the meaning of the words in the application question. View "Hiscox Dedicated Corp Member v. Suzan Taylor" on Justia Law
Keene Auto Body, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
Plaintiff Keene Auto Body, Inc. appealed a circuit court order that dismissed its complaint against defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Keene Auto Body, acting as an assignee of Caleb Meagher, who insured his vehicle through State Farm, sued State Farm for breach of contract for failing to cover the full cost of repairs to the insured’s vehicle. State Farm moved to dismiss the suit on grounds that, because of an anti-assignment clause in the insured’s policy, the insured’s assignment of his breach of contract claim to Keene Auto Body was not valid, and that, even if it was, Keene Auto Body did not sufficiently state a claim for breach of contract. The trial court granted the motion. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found the anti-assignment clause at issue here was ambiguous, and construed it against the insurer. Therefore, the clause did not prohibit the insured from assigning his post-loss claim to Keene Auto Body. Given this holding, the Supreme Court determined Keene Auto Body's factual allegations were sufficient to survive State Farm's motion to dismiss. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Keene Auto Body, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Randle v. Farmers New World Life Insurance Co.
Plaintiff sued Farmers New World Life Insurance Company (Defendant or Farmers) for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and punitive damages in connection with a policy insuring the life of her ex-husband. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant on those claims, concluding it was undisputed that the ex-husband remained the owner of the policy until he died, and that he had changed the beneficiaries on the policy, reducing his ex-wife’s interest from 100 percent to 25 percent. The Second Appellate District reversed, finding that the trial court failed to consider the terms of a divorce decree affecting ownership of the policy, and because Defendant’s agent repeatedly assured Plaintiff, up to and after the ex-husband’s death, that Plaintiff remained the sole beneficiary. Therefore, the court concluded disputed issues of material fact prevent summary judgment. View "Randle v. Farmers New World Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Kaiser Trucking, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company in this insurance dispute, holding that the circuit court improperly dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.An agent of Kaiser Trucking was in an automobile accident with Liberty Mutual's insured. The circuit court granted default judgment for Kaiser Trucking and its agent. After the judgments were returned unsatisfied, Kaiser and its agent brought this action against Liberty Mutual seeking indemnification of the judgments against its insured. Liberty Mutual filed a motion to dismiss under S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-12(b)(5), arguing that Plaintiffs failed to plead a condition precedent to coverage under the policy. The circuit court agreed and dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Kaiser Trucking, Inc. was not required to plea satisfaction of conditions precedent in the relevant insurance policy sufficiently to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and avoid a Rule 12(b)(5) dismissal of its complaint. View "Kaiser Trucking, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law