Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Contracts
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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 124 Stat. 119, directed each state to establish an online exchange through which insurers may sell health plans that meet certain requirements. Insurers must reduce the “cost-sharing” burdens, such as co-payments and deductibles, of certain customers. When insurers meet that requirement, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) shall reimburse them for the required cost-sharing reductions, 42 U.S.C. 18071(c)(3)(A). In October 2017, the Secretary stopped making reimbursement payments, due to determinations that such payments were not within the congressional appropriation that the Secretary had invoked to pay the reimbursements. Insurers sued.The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurers on liability, reasoning that the ACA reimbursement provision is “money-mandating” and that the government is liable for damages. The court cited the Supreme Court’s 2020 “Maine Community,” addressing a different ACA payment-obligation as indicating that the cost-sharing-reduction reimbursement provision imposes an unambiguous obligation on the government to pay money; that obligation is enforceable through a damages action under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1). The court remanded the issue of damages. The government is not entitled to a reduction in damages with respect to cost-sharing reductions not paid in 2017. As to 2018, the Claims Court must reduce the insurers’ damages by the amount of additional premium tax credit payments that each insurer received as a result of the government’s termination of cost-sharing reduction payments. View "Community Health Choice, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Dunbar, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), was awarded an Army Corps of Engineers ditch and tributary project in Arkansas. Dunbar then hired a subcontractor, Harding Enterprises, to work on the project. After Harding Enterprises defaulted, Dunbar made a demand on the bond guaranteed by Hanover, which Hanover denied. Hanover then filed suit seeking a declaration that it had no obligations under the bond and seeking to have the bond rescinded based on illegality of the subcontract.The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Hanover, holding that the district court erroneously concluded that the subcontract was undisputedly in violation of 13 C.F.R. 125.6(b)(2) because the percentage that Dunbar spent on contract performance relative to the prime contract price could not be conclusively ascertained until conclusion of performance of the prime contract. The court also held that the potential that Hanover may have liability under the False Claims Act if it were to perform under the bond does not justify discharging Hanover from its obligations and rescinding the contract. View "Hanover Insurance Co. v. Dunbar Mechanical Contractors, LLC" on Justia Law

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North Edwards Water District (the District) selected Clark Bros., Inc. (Clark) as its general or direct contractor on a public works project to build an arsenic removal water treatment plant. Clark hired subcontractor Crosno Construction (Crosno) to build and coat two steel reservoir tanks. The subcontract contained a "pay-when-paid" provision that stated Clark would pay Crosno within a reasonable time of receiving payments from the District, but that this reasonable time "in no event shall be less than the time Contractor and Subcontractor require to pursue to conclusion their legal remedies against Owner or other responsible party to obtain payment . . . ." After Crosno completed most of its work, a dispute arose between the District and Clark halting the project. As Clark sued the District, Crosno sought to recover payments owed under the public works payment bond that Clark had obtained for the project. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review involved Crosno's claim against the bond surety, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (Travelers). At issue was whether the pay-when-paid provision in Crosno's subcontract precluded Crosno from recovering under the payment bond while Clark's lawsuit against the District was pending. Relying on Wm. R. Clarke Corp. v. Safeco Ins. Co., 15 Cal.4th 882 (1997), the trial court found the pay-when-paid provision here unenforceable because it affected or impaired Crosno's payment bond rights in violation of Civil Code section 8122. With the facts largely undisputed, the court granted Crosno's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in its favor for principal due plus prejudgment interest. Travelers argued the trial court misconstrued Wm. R. Clarke and erred in failing to enforce the pay-when-paid provision against the bond claim. After carefully considering the parties' arguments, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court's analysis and affirmed. View "Crosno Construction, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty etc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment dismissal of all claims in the Second Amended Complaint against defendants in an action stemming from construction projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The court held that MES's claims failed to articulate any support for its accusations that Safeco breached its contractual obligations or engaged in bad faith or tortious conduct. The court noted that the claim that Safeco acted inappropriately by attending the cure meetings was particularly frivolous. In this case, MES failed to identify any good faith basis, in law or on the basis of the agreements at issue, for its assertion that Safeco had no right to take steps to meet its obligations under the surety bonds. The court sua sponte awarded Safeco double costs. View "M.E.S., Inc. v. Safeco Insurance Co. of America" on Justia Law

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A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. The insurer filed suit. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement or action by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the risk corridors program was simply an incentive program. Because there was no contract, the insurer’s “takings” claim also failed. View "Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. Moda filed suit. The Claims Court granted Moda partial summary judgment as to liability, stipulated to be $209,830,445.79. Dozens of other insurers filed actions, with mixed results. The Federal Circuit reversed. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the statute, its regulations, and HHS’s conduct simply created an incentive program. View "Moda Health Plan, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review an award of attorney fees against five surety companies following a jury trial for breach of contract in a public works project. The parties litigated the issue of whether three construction firms had defaulted on a contract, thus triggering coverage under a performance bond issued by the surety companies. At issue was whether the existence of a statutory fee provision barred equitable remedies available at common law for coverage disputes and whether the trial court correctly determined that segregation between covered and uncovered fees was impossible. The Court of Appeals affirmed the award of Olympic Steamship fees and held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the fees could not be segregated. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "King County v. Vinci Constr. Grands Projets" on Justia Law

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The State of Michigan contracted with E.L. Bailey to construct a prison kitchen. After delays, the parties sued each other for breach of contract. Bailey had obtained surety bonds from Great American Insurance Company (GAIC) and had agreed to assign GAIC the right to settle claims related to the project if Bailey allegedly breached the contract. Exercising that right, GAIC negotiated with the state without Bailey’s knowledge, then obtained a declaratory judgment recognizing its right to settle. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting, for insufficient evidence, a claim that GAIC settled Bailey’s claims against the state in bad faith. Although “there can be bad faith without actual dishonesty or fraud,” when “the insurer is motivated by selfish purpose or by a desire to protect its own interests at the expense of its insured’s interest,” “offers of compromise” or “honest errors of judgment are not sufficient to establish bad faith.” There was no evidence that GAIC’s settlement of Bailey’s claims was undertaken with selfish purpose at Bailey’s expense. GAIC and Bailey shared an interest in securing the highest settlement possible from the state. Even if GAIC misunderstood Michigan law, leading it to miscalculate its liability and accept a lower settlement, “honest errors of judgment are not sufficient to establish bad faith.” View "Great American Insurance Co. v. E.L. Bailey & Co." on Justia Law

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This matter stemmed from a public works project for the construction of a gymnasium in Terrytown. JaRoy Construction Inc. served as the general contractor, and pursuant to statute, furnished a surety bond to Jefferson Parish. Ohio Casualty Insurance Company was the surety. JaRoy entered into a written subcontract with Pierce Foundations, Inc. to provide and install pilings for the project. Once finished, Pierce alleged JaRoy failed to pay certain funds due under the subcontract. Pierce sued both JaRoy and Ohio Casualty Insurance, alleging they were jointly and severally liable to Pierce. JaRoy filed for bankruptcy, leaving only Ohio Casualty Insurance as party to the suit. When the project was substantially completed, the Jefferson Parish government filed a notice of acceptance of work with the Jefferson Parish mortgage records office. This occurred over a year after Pierce amended its lawsuit to add Ohio Casualty as a defendant. Pierce never filed a sworn statement of claim in the mortgage records. Ohio Casualty filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that Pierce was required to comply with statutory notice and recordation, and because it failed to do so within 45 days of Jefferson Parish’s acceptance of the project, Pierce could not recover from Ohio Casualty. Pierce argued that the statute did not affect its right to proceed in contract. After a bench trial, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Pierce for sums owed under the contract plus judicial interest from the date of the original judgment. Ohio Casualty appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in not dismissing Pierce's claims. The court of appeal reversed and ruled in Ohio Casualty's favor. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed and affirmed the trial court judgment. View "Pierce Foundations, Inc. v. JaRoy Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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USF&G filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), seeking reimbursement from the government for legal expenses and settlement costs it allegedly incurred in its capacity as general liability insurer for Gibbs Construction, a government contractor. USF&G alleged that, in a contract for renovation work at the New Orleans main post office, the U.S. Postal Service agreed to indemnify Gibbs and its agents against any liability incurred as a result of asbestos removal work under the contract. USF&G alleged that the Postal Service failed to indemnify Gibbs in connection with a lawsuit filed against Gibbs by a former Postal Service police officer, in which the officer claimed that he contracted mesothelioma as a result of asbestos removal during performance of the contract, and that, as Gibbs’s general liability insurer, it was required to litigate and settle the officer’s claim. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal. The Claims Court lacked jurisdiction under a theory of equitable subrogation. View "Fid. & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law