Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
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Darrell Jent suffered serious injuries while working on an oil rig. The rig’s owner, Precision Drilling Company, L.P., paid him a settlement, then made a claim on its insurance. The insurance company, Lexington Insurance Company, denied the claim. Precision sued, contending that Lexington should have reimbursed the money it paid Jent. Lexington issued two insurance policies covering Precision for accidents exactly like Jent's. However, Lexington argued that under Wyoming state law, the policies were a nullity, so any coverage here was more illusory than real and that Precision was solely responsible. "There can be no doubt that Wyoming law usually prohibits those engaged in the oil and gas industry from contractually shifting to others liability for their own negligence." The district court agreed with Lexington and granted its motion for summary judgment. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed, finding that the district court misinterpreted the statute that was grounds for Lexington's motion. The case was then remanded for further proceedings. View "Lexington Insurance v. Precision Drilling" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Idaho Power entered into two Firm Energy Sales Agreements, one with New Energy Two, LLC, and the other with New Energy Three, LLC, under which Idaho Power agreed to purchase electricity from them that was to be generated by the use of biogas. The agreement with New Energy Two stated that the project would be operational on October 1, 2012, and the agreement with New Energy Three stated that the project would be operational on December 1, 2012. Both contracts were submitted for approval to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, and were both approved on July 1, 2010. Each of the agreements contained a force majeure clause. By written notice, New Energy Two and New Energy Three informed Idaho Power that they were claiming the occurrence of a force majeure event, which was ongoing proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission. New Energy asserted that until those proceedings were finally resolved "the entire circumstance of continued viability of all renewable energy projects in Idaho is undecided"and that as a consequence "renewable energy project lenders are unwilling to lend in Idaho pending the outcome of these proceedings."Idaho Power filed petitions with the Commission against New Energy Two and New Energy Three seeking declaratory judgments that no force majeure event, as that term was defined in the agreements, had occurred and that Idaho Power could terminate both agreements for the failure of the projects to be operational by the specified dates. New Energy filed a motion to dismiss both petitions on the ground that the Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction to interpret or enforce contracts. After briefing from both parties, the Commission denied New Energy's motion to dismiss. The Commission's order was an interlocutory order that is not appealable as a matter of right. New Energy filed a motion with the Supreme Court requesting a permissive appeal pursuant to Idaho Appellate Rule 12, and the Court granted the motion. New Energy then appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's order.View "Idaho Power v. New Energy Two" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from Pioneer's efforts to seek insurance coverage under Steadfast's umbrella policy for costs and expenses incurred in cleaning up and remediating some property. Applying Louisiana's choice-of-law rules, the court concluded that Texas law applied because the insurance policy at issue was issued and delivered under Texas insurance statutes. The district court found that Texas and Louisiana law do not conflict on the issue of insurance policy interpretation and applied Louisiana law. Because neither party challenged this determination, the court did the same. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court did not err by holding that the exclusions within the Property Damage exclusion and the Blended Pollution endorsement were applicable, thus precluding coverage for the costs of remediating the Meaux property and containment; the costs of containment were precluded by the clear language of the policy; the costs of remediating the Rutherford property were unavailable due to its inability to allocate remediation costs; the costs of settling the lawsuits were unavailable due to the retained limit; and the costs of plugging the well were precluded by the OIL endorsement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "Pioneer Exploration, L.L.C. v. Steadfast Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Mid-Continent Casualty Company brought a declaratory judgment action to settle an issue with its commercial commercial general liability (CGL) policy issued to Pennant Service Company. In 2001, True Oil Company, an owner and operator of oil and gas wells, entered into a master service contract (MSC) with Pennant for work on a well in Wyoming. The MSC included a provision whereby Pennant agreed to indemnify True Oil resulting from either Pennant or True Oil's negligence. In July 2001, Christopher Van Norman, a Pennant employee, was injured in an accident at True Oil's well. Van Norman sued True Oil in Wyoming state court for negligence. In accordance with the MSC's indemnity provision, counsel for True Oil wrote to Pennant requesting indemnification for its defense costs, attorney fees, and any award that Van Norman might recover against it. Mid-Continent refused to defend or indemnify True Oil based on Wyoming's Anti-Indemnity Statute, which invalidates agreements related to oil or gas wells that "indemnify the indemnitee against loss or liability for damages for . . . bodily injury to persons." In May 2002, True Oil brought a federal action against Mid-Continent for declaratory relief, breach of contract (CGL policy), and other related claims. In February 2005, the district court granted Mid-Continent summary judgment, determining that the MSC's indemnity provision, when invoked with respect to claims of the indemnitee's own negligence was unenforceable as a matter of public policy. The court held that Mid-Continent was not required to defend or indemnify True Oil in the underlying suit as it then existed because "where an indemnification provision in a MSC is void and unenforceable, the insurer never actually assumed any of the indemnitee's liabilities under the policy." The district court granted summary judgment to True Oil, determining Mid-Continent breached its duty to defend and indemnify True Oil. As damages, the court awarded True Oil the amount it paid to settle the underlying suit and the attorney fees and costs incurred in defending itself. Mid-Continent appealed the district court's judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed.View "Mid-Continent v. True Oil Company" on Justia Law

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Portland General Electric Company (PGE) appealed a Court of Appeals decision that reversed and remanded a trial court order that denied Lexington Insurance Company's motion to set aside a default judgment entered in PGE's favor. Specifically, the issues were: (1) whether a default judgment awarding monetary relief violated ORCP 67C if the complaint did not specify amount of damages sought; and (2) if so, whether that omission rendered the judgment voidable or void. The Supreme Court held the judgment in question here did not violate ORCP 67C and that the judgment was not void. The case was remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings. View "PGE v. Ebasco Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Doe Run commenced a declaratory action seeking to enforce Lexington's contractual duty to defend Doe Run per its Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies in two underlying lawsuits (the Briley Lawsuit and the McSpadden Lawsuit). These underlying lawsuits sought damages arising out of Doe Run's operation of a five-hundred-acre waste pile (Leadwood Pile). The court concluded that the pollution exclusions in the CGL policies precluded a duty to defend Doe Run in the Briley Lawsuit. The court concluded, however, that the McSpadden Lawsuit included allegations and claims that were not unambiguously barred from coverage by the pollution exclusions in the policies. The McSpadden Lawsuit alleged that the distribution of toxic materials harmed plaintiffs, without specifying how that harm occurred. The McSpadden complaint also alleged that Doe Run caused bodily injury or property damage when it left the Leadwood Pile open and available for use by the public without posting warning signs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Doe Run Resources Corp. v. Lexington Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Doe Run commenced a declaratory judgment action seeking to enforce Lexington's contractual duty to defend Doe Run per its Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies in an underlying lawsuit. The underlying lawsuit alleged environmental property damage resulting from Doe Run's mine and mill operations. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Lexington had no duty to defend because the policies' absolute pollution exclusions unambiguously barred coverage of all claims asserted in the underlying lawsuit. View "Doe Run Resources Corp. v. Lexington Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from the explosion and sinking of Transocean's Deepwater Horizon in April 2010. At issue were the obligations of Transocean's primary and excess-liability insurers to cover BP's pollution-related liabilities deriving from the ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Because the court, applying Texas law, found that the umbrella policies between the Insurers and Transocean did not impose any relevant limitation upon the extent to which BP was an additional insured, and because the additional insured provision in the Drilling Contract was separate from and additional to the indemnity provisions therein, the court found BP was entitled to coverage under each of Transocean's policies as an additional insured as a matter of law. The court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

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Liberty Mutual insured PPI and PPI was retained by several third parties to assist in planning well-drilling operations. After a well was drilled in the wrong area, PPI was sued by the third parties, PPI then sought defense and indemnification from Liberty Mutual but Liberty Mutual refused. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of PPI's breach of contract claim because it had no duty to defend. Both parties acknowledged that the duty-to-indemnify issue was now moot. Because the court affirmed the breach of contract claim's dismissal, the court affirmed the breach of the Texas Insurance Code claim and breach of the good faith and fair dealing claims. View "PPI Technology Services, L.P. v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought suit seeking declaratory judgment and asserted claims for breach of contract and bad faith when its insurers asserted that certain sublimits in plaintiff's policy capped reimbursement for damages caused by flood and that those sublimits applied to both property damage and business interruption losses. Plaintiff claimed that the sublimits only applied to property damage. The court concluded that there was no factual dispute regarding whether an insurance brokerage employee shared the same understanding as the underwriters and whether that understanding bound plaintiff. Consequently, the interpretation of the contract did not depend "on the credibility of extrinsic evidence or on a choice among reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the extrinsic evidence," and thus the district court did not err when it granted insurers' judgment as a matter of law on the declaratory judgment and breach of contract claims.