Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
Meier v. Pacific Life Insurance Co.
Ron and Lorrie Meier investigated the purchase of a life insurance policy for Ron through Monarch Solutions. While they considered a policy offered by Lincoln, a nurse assessed Ron’s health and prepared a “Medical Supplement” and “Examiner’s Report.” Ron ultimately applied for a policy with Pacific. In June 2018, Pacific received a copy of the medical forms previously submitted to Lincoln. On July 26, Ron completed his Pacific application, referencing the Lincoln “medical examination.” Ron agreed to several terms, including a provision requiring him to update Pacific “in writing of any changes” to his health. Pacific accepted Ron’s application on July 30 and began the underwriting process. On August 6, Ron learned he had stage IV lung cancer and immediately began treatment. Ron and Lorrie orally disclosed Ron’s cancer diagnosis to their Monarch representative but did not inform Pacific. On September 6, Pacific delivered Ron's policy. A year later Ron died from lung cancer.After learning that Ron had failed to disclose his terminal cancer before the policy’s issuance date, Pacific rejected Lorrie’s claim. Pursuant to the Illinois Insurance Code, Pacific rescinded the policy and returned the premiums. The district court and Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of Pacific. Ron’s failure to inform Pacific of the diagnosis constituted a material misrepresentation allowing for the policy's rescission. View "Meier v. Pacific Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Dorchester Mutual Insurance Co. v. Miville
In this case concerning the term "physical abuse" as used in an "abuse and molestation" policy exclusion the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Insurer on its action for declaratory relief, holding that the abuse and molestation exclusion did not exempt coverage under the circumstances of this case.The homeowners' insurance policy at issue precluded coverage under a policy exclusion exempting coverage for "[b]odily injury...arising out of sexual molestation, corporal punishment or physical or mental abuse." Insured initiated an unprovoked attack on Leonard Miville by punching and kicking him repeatedly. When Insurer denied coverage Miville commenced an action against Insured. Insurer brought this action seeking a judgment declaring that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Insured for the personal injury claims. The judge granted summary judgment for Insurer. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that a reasonable insured would not expect the abuse and molestation exclusion to preclude coverage for the incident. View "Dorchester Mutual Insurance Co. v. Miville" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Insurance Law, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Daniel Ilias v. USAA General Indemnity Company
S.D. lost control of his van while driving on a divided highway in Pasco County, Florida. The van jumped the center median and landed directly on top of an oncoming car driven by Plaintiff. Plaintiff was seriously injured in the resulting wreck. S.D.’s insurer, USAA General Indemnity Company, immediately began investigating. But despite learning that Plaintiff had suffered grievous injuries so that his damages would almost surely exceed S.D.’s $10,000 policy limit, and despite determining that S.D. was solely at fault for the accident, USAA delayed initiating settlement negotiations for over a month. Then, USAA failed to confirm for Plaintiff’s attorney that S.D. lacked additional insurance coverage with which to satisfy a judgment. Plaintiff then commenced this action to hold USAA responsible for the judgment, bringing a single claim for bad faith under Florida common law. USAA moved for summary judgment, arguing that no reasonable jury could find that its conduct amounted to bad faith. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that the district court improvidently granted summary judgment to USAA. Material issues of fact as to bad faith and causation remain in dispute, and Plaintiff is entitled to have a jury resolve them. The court explained had USAA complied with its “duty to initiate settlement negotiations” sooner or provided Plaintiff’s attorney with a coverage affidavit before Plaintiff filed suit, the case may have settled before rising costs changed the calculus. View "Daniel Ilias v. USAA General Indemnity Company" on Justia Law
Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association v. Kiran Ahuja
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers retirement benefits for civilian employees of the U.S. government. OPM typically pays retirement benefits to retirees themselves. But when a retiree’s benefits are subject to division pursuant to a divorce decree, OPM divides them between the retiree and his or her former spouse according to the terms of the decree. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (Association) brought this action against OPM in district court, claiming that OPM’s method of apportioning one type of retirement benefit, the Annuity Supplement, violates the Administrative Procedure Act. OPM moved to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds. The district court acknowledged that federal employees’ claims for retirement benefits are generally routed through that system of review, but held that the Association’s claims fell within an exception allowing pre-enforcement challenges to agency rules to proceed in district court. Exercising jurisdiction, the district court dismissed one of the Association’s counts for failure to state a legally cognizable claim and, after the administrative record was filed, granted summary judgment to OPM as to the others. The DC Circuit vacated the district court’s orders and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The court held that the CSRA’s system of review—which channels disputes about FERS retirement benefits through an administrative process, subject to direct review in the Federal Circuit—precludes district court review of the Association’s claims. View "Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association v. Kiran Ahuja" on Justia Law
Gonzalez v. Blue Cross Blue Shield
Plaintiff is a former federal employee and participant in a health-insurance plan (“Plan”) that is governed by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act (“FEHBA”). The Plan stems from a contract between the federal Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and certain of its affiliates (together, “Blue Cross”). Blue Cross administers the Plan under OPM’s supervision. Plaintiff suffered from cancer, and she asked Blue Cross whether the Plan would cover the proton therapy that her physicians recommended. Blue Cross told her the Plan did not cover that treatment. So Plaintiff chose to receive a different type of radiation treatment, one that the Plan did cover. The second-choice treatment eliminated cancer, but it also caused devastating side effects. Plaintiff then sued OPM and Blue Cross, claiming that the Plan actually does cover proton therapy. As against OPM, she seeks the “benefits” that she wanted but did not receive, as well as an injunction directing OPM to compel Blue Cross to reform its internal processes by, among other things, covering proton therapy in the Plan going forward. As against Blue Cross, she seeks monetary damages under Texas common law. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s suit. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that neither the advance process nor the proton-therapy guideline poses an immediate threat of injury, so injunctive relief is therefore unavailable. Further, the court found that FEHBA preempts Plaintiff’s common-law claims against Blue Cross. Accordingly, the court held that no relief is available under the relevant statutory and regulatory regime. View "Gonzalez v. Blue Cross Blue Shield" on Justia Law
National Union v. Cargill
National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh (National Union) filed suit to obtain a declaration that it owed no payment to Cargill, Inc. under the employee theft clause of the insurance policy held by Cargill. Cargill counterclaimed for breach of contract. The district court granted judgment on the pleadings for Cargill, ruling that Cargill had suffered a covered loss resulting directly from an employee’s theft. National Union appealed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not err by concluding there were no disputes as to any material facts that precluded granting Cargill’s Rule 12(c) motion. Further, the court wrote that Cargill’s insurance policy provided coverage for employee “theft,” which was defined in the policy as “the unlawful taking of property to the deprivation of the Insured.” Additionally, the insured’s loss must have resulted “directly from” employee theft to be covered by the policy. Finally, the court concluded that the date of Cargill’s notice letter was the appropriate date to begin calculating prejudgment interest. View "National Union v. Cargill" on Justia Law
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
Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co.
Lindenwood Female College (Lindenwood) asserted class action claims against its casualty insurer, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), alleging a wrongful denial of coverage for COVID-19 business interruption at its Missouri and Illinois properties. The district court granted Zurich’s motion to dismiss, finding no plausible allegation of coverage. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Lindenwood’s argument fails to identify an ambiguity. The court explained that in its view, no lay person—no reasonable insured—could look at the policy as a whole and fail to appreciate that the state-specific endorsements are intended to apply in the respective states. The references to Louisiana and other states are not mere titles; they serve to establish the structure of the policy as a whole. And it would simply make no sense to define a contamination exclusion with express reference to viral contamination in the main body of the policy only to wholly eliminate that same exclusion nationwide in a later endorsement that references an individual state. View "Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Martinique Properties, LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London
Martinique Properties, LLC filed a complaint against Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London (Underwriters), seeking to vacate an arbitration award. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim for vacatur. Martinique Properties appealed. Martinique Properties argues that the appraisal award must be vacated because the appraisers “used figures and measurements which are contrary to the actual conditions of the Property” and failed to “consider certain buildings” and certain portions of a damaged roof when determining the appraisal award. These alleged errors, Martinique Properties argues, show that the appraisers were either “guilty of misconduct” or “so imperfectly executed” their powers that “a mutual, final, and definite award . . . was not made,” two of the four grounds for vacating an award under the FAA. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court found that Martinique Properties has alleged only factual errors that challenge the merits of the appraisal award, and the court has no authority to reconsider the merits of an arbitration award, even when the parties allege that the award rests on factual errors. Accordingly, the appraisers’ use of certain figures and measurements in calculating the amount of loss here, and their alleged failure to consider particular buildings and portions of roof damage, even if incorrect, are not sufficient for vacatur under the FAA. View "Martinique Properties, LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's of London" on Justia Law
Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Co. v. Fun F/X II, Inc.
Fun's warehouse had a functional sprinkler system with a working water supply. In 2016, an inspector from Legacy found no problems. In 2017, the inspector found the system had no water pressure. South Bend Water Works could not explain the problem and had no record of shutting off the water. Two months later, Fun contacted the fire inspector, who did not know how to restore the water. Fun's owner again called the Water Works and was told there was no record of disconnection. He asked the operator to restore the water and “assumed that she was going to ... figure out what was going on.” Fun never heard from any Water Works personnel and did not check whether the water was restored. In 2018, another Legacy employee performed the inspection. Fun was not notified of any problems. A fire destroyed the warehouse in 2019. Fun claimed losses exceeding $7 million. The city apparently had capped the pipe supplying the sprinkler system in 2017 when the neighboring building was demolished. Fun's Frankenmuth insurance policy contained an exclusion for situations in which the insured knew of any suspension or impairment in any protective safeguard, including sprinkler systems, and failed to notify Frankenmuth.Frankenmuth obtained a declaratory judgment that it did not owe insurance coverage. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Cao had knowledge in 2017 that the system had no water yet never reported that impairment nor determined that the problem was solved. View "Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Co. v. Fun F/X II, Inc." on Justia Law