Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court
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Following two operation-disabling accidents, Noranda Aluminum Holding Corporation, an insured aluminum-products manufacturer, whose “all-risks” property-insurance policy included business- interruption coverage, did not rebuild its damaged facility and consequently did not resume operations. Noranda and its insurers agreed that the failure to rebuild and resume operations did not negate the business-interruption coverage. But when Noranda submitted its business-interruption claim, the parties could not agree on how to calculate the Noranda's gross-earnings loss, which was the measure of the insurers’ liability under the relevant policy. After a seven-day trial, a jury found in favor of Noranda, and the insurers appealed. At trial, Noranda's damages expert employed a model that measured the insured’s gross-earnings loss by comparing the value of the insured’s production had the accident not occurred with the value of its production after the accidents had it repaired and resumed operations with due diligence. Although the parties disputed whether the insurers took issue with this methodology at trial in this appeal, the insurers contended that the model was inconsistent with the policy’s formula for calculating gross-earnings loss and that it grossly exaggerated the amount of the Noranda's claim. The insurers also challenged Noranda's expert’s factual assumptions and claimed he improperly included amounts that the insured had waived in an earlier property-damage settlement. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded Noranda's expert's damages model was consistent with the relevant policy provisions, and that the trial court's determination that the factual assumptions made by the expert were sufficiently reliable for the jury to consider was not an abuse of discretion. Likewise, the Court held the insurers' claim that the earlier property-damage settlement precluded a portion of Noranda's recovery was without merit. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "XL Insurance America, Inc., et al. v. Noranda Aluminum Holding Corporation" on Justia Law

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A superior court determined State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company’s (collectively, “State Farm”) payment practices with Spine Care Delaware, LLC (“SCD”) for medical fees incurred by its Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) insureds in connection with covered multi-injection spine procedures contravened 21 Del. C. 2118(a)(2). When State Farm received SCD’s charges for a multi-injection procedure performed on one of its PIP insureds, it unilaterally applied a Multiple Payment Reduction (“MPR”) to the charges for injections after the first injection in a manner consistent with Medicare guidelines, paying SCD less than what it charged. SCD sought a declaration that State Farm's application of its MPRs was inconsistent with section 2118(a)(2)’s requirement of reasonable compensation for covered medical expenses, and sought a declaration that State Farm had to pay SCD any reasonable amount charged for PIP-related medical expenses, without applying MPRs. Both parties then moved for summary judgment. The superior court held that State Farm failed to show that the MPR reductions correlated to reasonable charges for the multiple-injection treatments, and thus contravened section 2118(a)(2). On appeal, State Farm contended the superior court incorrectly placed the burden of proof on State Farm to demonstrate that its application of MPRs was reasonable, and that SCD failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that State Farm’s application of MPRs was a failure to pay reasonable and necessary expenses under the statute. Alternatively, State Farm argued that even if it had the burden of proof, it satisfied that burden. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with State Farm's first premise, that the superior court erred in assigning State Farm the burden of proof. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "State Farm v. Spine Care Delaware" on Justia Law

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USAA Casualty Insurance Company (“USAA”) sought a declaratory judgment that it was not obligated to defend, indemnify, or provide insurance coverage for claims made in two lawsuits against Trinity Carr, the daughter of a USAA homeowner’s-insurance policyholder. The plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuits sought money damages from Carr and others for personal injuries and wrongful death suffered by Amy Joyner-Francis in a physical altercation - described in both complaints as a “brutal, senseless, forseeable [sic] and preventable attack” - between Joyner-Francis and Carr and her friends. USAA argued at trial, as it did before the Delaware Supreme Court, that the incident - whether it be labeled an altercation, an attack, or otherwise - was not an “accident” and therefore not a covered occurrence under the policy and that, even if it were, the purported liability was excluded from coverage. The Superior Court disagreed and entered summary judgment in favor of Carr. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with USAA’s interpretation of the relevant policy provisions and therefore reversed the Superior Court’s judgment. "To label an intentional assault, as the parties agree occurred here, an accident is to disregard the ordinary, everyday meaning of 'accident.' We thus hold that whether an assault is an 'accident' is determined by the intent of the insured, and not by the viewpoint of the victim. ... even though Carr may not have intended to cause [the victim's] death, she certainly intended to cause injury to her." View "USAA Casualty Ins. Co. v. Carr" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Verizon divested its print and electronic directories business to its stockholders in a tax-free “spin-off” transaction. As part of the transaction, Verizon created Idearc, Inc. and appointed John Diercksen, a Verizon executive, to serve as Idearc’s sole director. Verizon then distributed Idearc common stock to Verizon shareholders. Idearc launched as a separate business with $9.1 billion in debt. In connection with the Idearc spinoff, Verizon and Idearc purchased primary and excess Executive and Organizational Liability Policies (“Idearc Runoff Policies"). The Idearc Runoff Policies covered certain claims made against defined insureds during the six-year policy period that exceeded a $7.5 million retention. Relevant here, Endorsement No. 7 to the policies stated that “[i]n connection with any Securities Claim,” and “for any Loss . . . incurred while a Securities Claim is jointly made and maintained against both the Organization and one or more Insured Person(s), this policy shall pay 100% of such Loss up to the Limit of Liability of the policy.” “Securities Claim” was defined in pertinent part as a “Claim” against an “Insured Person” “[a]lleging a violation of any federal, state, local or foreign regulation, rule or statute regulating securities (including, but not limited to, the purchase or sale or offer or solicitation of an offer to purchase or sell securities).” Under the policy, Verizon could recover its “Defense Costs” when a Securities Claim was brought against it and covered directors and officers, and Verizon indemnified those directors and officers. Idearc operated as an independent, publicly traded company until it filed for bankruptcy in 2009; a litigation trust was set up to pursue claims against Verizon on behalf of creditors. Primary amongst the allegations was Dickersen and Verizon saddled Idearc with excessive debt at the time of the spin-off. This appeal turned on the definition of a "Securities Claim;" the Superior Court found the definition ambiguous. Using extrinsic evidence, the court held that fiduciary duty, unlawful dividend, and fraudulent transfer claims brought by a bankruptcy trustee against Verizon Communications Inc. and others were Securities Claims covered under the policy. The Delaware Supreme Court disagreed, finding that, applying the plain meaning of the Securities Claim definition in the policy, the litigation trustee’s complaint did not allege any violations of regulations, rules, or statutes regulating securities. Thus, the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment to Verizon was reversed and that court directed to enter summary judgment in favor of the Insurers. View "In Re Verizon Insurance Coverage Appeals" on Justia Law

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Two cases consolidated for review by the Delaware Supreme Court involved automobile accidents. John Henry and Charles Fritz sustained injuries in accidents while operating employer-owned vehicles during the course of their employment. In both cases, the accidents were allegedly caused by a third-party tortfeasor. Both employees received workers’ compensation from their respective employers’ insurance carriers. In each case, the vehicle was covered by an automobile liability insurance policy issued to the employer by Cincinnati Insurance Company. The superior court issued an order in Henry’s case first, finding the exclusive-remedy provision in the Delaware Workers’ Compensation Act in effect at the time of his accident precluded Henry from receiving underinsured motorist benefits under the Cincinnati policy. Following that decision, the Fritz court granted Cincinnati’s motion for summary judgment on the same ground. Henry and Fritz argued on appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court that the superior court erred in finding the Act’s exclusivity provision precluded them from receiving underinsured motorist benefits through the automobile liability policies their respective employers purchased from Cincinnati. The Supreme Court agreed both trial courts erred in finding the Act’s exclusivity provision prevented underinsured motorist benefits. The Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Henry v. Cincinnati Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Homeland Insurance Company of New York appealed a superior court judgment entered against it in the amount of $13.5 million plus pre-judgment interest. The litigation that led to the judgment was initiated by CorVel Corporation, a Delaware company that operated a national Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) network. Homeland issued CorVel a claims-made errors and omissions liability policy with limits of $10 million and a policy period of October 31, 2005 to October 31, 2006. Thereafter, Homeland issued similar renewal policies. CorVel’s PPO network included agreements with medical providers in Louisiana. In late 2004 and early 2005, Louisiana medical providers began filing claims asserting that CorVel had improperly discounted medical payments without providing proper notice in violation of a Louisiana PPO statute. Litigation in Louisiana ultimately involved millions of dollars of claims against CorVel. In 2011, CorVel entered into a settlement of the litigation. As part of the settlement consideration, CorVel paid $9 million. In 2015, CorVel filed its complaint in this case, alleging that Homeland owed it damages and penalties under another Louisiana statute, La. R.S. 22:1973. CorVel alleged that Homeland knowingly misrepresented facts or policy provisions in a complaint that Homeland filed in a declaratory judgment action in Delaware in 2011. The alleged misrepresentation was an averment that CorVel had not timely reported the PPO claims in accordance with the policy’s requirements. The damages CorVel sought were the $9 million that it paid to settle the Louisiana litigation, penalties, attorneys’ fees, and pre-judgment interest. The Delaware superior court agreed with CorVel’s claim and awarded it $9 million in damages, $4.5 million in penalties, and pre-judgment interest. Homeland argued on appeal: (1) the allegation in its declaratory judgment complaint was a statement of a coverage position that could not give rise to a finding of bad faith under either Delaware or Louisiana law; (2) no causal connection existed between the allegation in the declaratory judgment complaint and CorVel’s decision to settle the PPO claims; and (3) the applicable statute of limitations barred CorVel’s claim. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded that the statute of limitations did bar CorVel’s claim and that the superior court erred by ruling that it did not. Because the statute of limitations barred CorVel’s claim, the Court did not address Homeland’s first two arguments. View "Homeland Insurance v. Corvel Corp" on Justia Law

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At the heart of this appeal was a coverage dispute between a chemical company and a group of insurers over whether the insurers had to compensate the company for expenses and fines associated with environmental claims against the company in Ohio and Arkansas. The policies in question were part of a comprehensive insurance program that covered the chemical company‘s operations around the world. The chemical company and the insurers disputed what law applied to their contract law dispute regarding the application of the insurance policy. The Superior Court held that the insurance policy was not, in fact, to be interpreted by a consistent law, but instead that the underlying contract law of the states where the environmental claims arose would govern on a claim-by-claim basis. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the insurer that the Superior Court erred in its application of the relevant choice-of-law principles, and, instead, applied a consistent choice of law principle. New York was the principal place of business for the chemical company‘s predecessors at the beginning of the coverage, and there were a number of contacts with New York over time after the beginning of the coverage, the most significant relationship among the parties for these contracts was New York. Thus, New York law should have been applied to resolve this contract dispute. The Superior Court was therefore reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London, et al. v. Chemtura Cororporation" on Justia Law

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This dispute centered on subrogation claims Victoria Insurance Company and Nationwide Insurance Company asserted against the City of Wilmington. This appeal presented a question of first impression before the Supreme Court: whether, under Delaware's motor vehicle insurance statute governing subrogation disputes among insurers and self-insurers, the losing party may appeal de novo to the Superior Court from an adverse arbitration award. In considering consolidated motions to dismiss two such appeals filed by the City against the insurers, the Superior Court determined that 21 Del. C. 2118(g)(3), which mandated arbitration for subrogation disputes arising between insurers and self-insurers, did not provide a right to appeal. Because the statute unambiguously provided for appeals from mandatory arbitration of subrogation disputes between insurers and self-insurers, the Supreme Court reversed. View "City of Wilmington v. Nationwide Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Magdalena Guardado, an undocumented worker, was employed as a machine manager for Roos Foods when she was involved in a work-related accident. She injured her left wrist and thereafter received total disability benefits. The employer petitioned the Industrial Accident Board (“the Board”) to terminate those benefits on the ground that the worker was no longer disabled and could return to work. The Board found: (1) the employer met its initial burden of showing that the worker was no longer totally disabled; (2) that the worker was a prima facie displaced worker based solely on her status as an undocumented worker; and (3) the employer had failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities. Accordingly, it denied the employer’s petition. The questions this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review were: (1) whether an injured worker’s immigration status alone rendered her a prima facie displaced worker; and (2) whether the Board properly found that the employer failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities because its evidence failed to take into account the worker’s undocumented status. The Court concluded that an undocumented worker’s immigration status was not relevant to determining whether she was a prima facie displaced worker, but it was a relevant factor to be considered in determining whether she is an actually displaced worker. The Court also concluded that the Board correctly rejected the employer’s evidence of regular employment opportunities for the worker because that evidence failed to consider her undocumented status. View "Roos Foods v. Guardado" on Justia Law

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Appellant Greenville Country Club, through its workers’ compensation carrier, Guard Insurance (“Guard”), appealed a Superior Court Order affirming a decision of the Industrial Accident Board (the “Board”). While working for Greenville Country Club, Jordan Rash suffered injuries to his lumbar spine in two separately compensable work accidents. The first accident occurred in 2009 while the country club was insured by Guard Insurance Group. The second accident occurred in 2012 while the country club was insured by Technology Insurance (“Technology”). In 2014, Rash filed two Petitions to Determine Additional Compensation, one against Guard and one against Technology. After a hearing, the Board determined that the condition at issue was a recurrence of the 2009 work injury and not an aggravation of the 2012 work injury, and concluded that Guard was therefore wholly liable for the additional compensation to Rash. Guard appealed, arguing: (1) the Board failed to properly apply the rule for determining successive carrier liability; and (2) there was no substantial evidence to support the Board’s finding that Rash fully recovered from the 2012 accident or that his ongoing condition was solely caused by the 2009 work accident. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found no error in the Board’s decision, and that the decision was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Board's decision. View "Greenville Country Club (Guard Insurance) v. Greenville Country Club (Technology Insurance)" on Justia Law