Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
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The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit certified a question of New Hampshire law to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The question arose from a dispute between Old Republic Insurance Company and Stratford Insurance Company as to their respective coverage and defense obligations arising out of a motor vehicle accident involving their insureds. Old Republic and Stratford each provided insurance coverage for a tractor-trailer that collided with a passenger vehicle. The owner of the tractor, Ryder Truck Rentals, had purchased an insurance policy from Old Republic. DAM Express, a for-hire motor company, had leased the tractor from Ryder. Although, pursuant to the lease agreement, Ryder was responsible for obtaining liability insurance for the tractor, DAM also purchased a separate insurance policy from Stratford. When the collision occurred, the driver of the tractor-trailer was employed by DAM, and the trailer was owned by Coca-Cola. The question posed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court was whether, under New Hampshire law, when was an excess insurer’s duty to defend triggered? Did New Hampshire follow the general rule that the excess insurer’s duty to defend is triggered only when the primary insurer’s coverage is exhausted? If not, what rule as to allocation of defense costs and timing of payment did New Hampshire follow? The New Hampshire Court responded that under New Hampshire law, the excess insurer’s duty to defend is triggered only when the primary’s insurer’s coverage is exhausted. View "Old Republic Insurance Co. v. Stratford Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant, Century Indemnity Company (CIC) appealed a Superior Court order that granted Respondent Roger Sevigny, Commissioner of Insurance and Liquidator of the Home Insurance Company (Home) an award of statutory prejudgment interest on certain monies owed to Home by CIC. Home is an insurance company, organized under the laws of New Hampshire, which was declared insolvent and placed in liquidation in 2003. CIC is an insurance company organized under the laws of Pennsylvania. CIC and Home have a set of co-insurance and reinsurance relationships. In prior litigation, the Supreme Court held that an asserted $8 million setoff claim by CIC, which had been waived and then reacquired by CIC in a pair of settlement agreements with PECO, was impermissible under New Hampshire law. The New Hampshire Court explicitly declined, without prejudice, to decide the issue at issue here: whether Home’s estate was entitled to prejudgment interest on the payments CIC wrongfully withheld based upon setoff. The Court denied CIC’s motion for reconsideration in the "Home IV" appeal; after remand, the Liquidator filed a motion in superior court for interest on amounts withheld by CIC based upon improper setoff, to which CIC objected. CIC removed the PECO setoff from its monthly statement to Home and paid the previously withheld $8 million to the Liquidator. The trial court entered an order granting the motion and finding that Home was entitled to prejudgment statutory interest under RSA 524:1-a (2007) accruing from October 2007 (the date of the Liquidator’s letter notifying CIC of his determination to disallow the PECO setoff). This appeal followed. Finding no reversible error in the Superior Court's order, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Rehabilitation of the Home Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Respondents The Local Government Center, Inc. (LGC), Local Government Center Real Estate, Inc., Local Government Center Health Trust, LLC, Local Government Center Property-Liability Trust, LLC, Health Trust, Inc., New Hampshire Municipal Association Property-Liability Trust, Inc., LGC-HT, LLC, and Local Government Center Workers' Compensation Trust, LLC, appealed a final order of a presiding officer of petitioner the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation (Bureau), finding that they violated RSA 5-B:5, I(c) (2013) and required, among other things, HealthTrust to return $33.2 million to its members, P-L Trust to return $3.1 million to its members, and P-L Trust to transfer $17.1 million to HealthTrust. After its review of the matter, the Supreme Court agreed with one of respondents' arguments with respect to the purchase of reinsurance: the presiding officer erred by requiring HealthTrust to purchase it. The Court affirmed the presiding officer in all other respects, and remanded the case for further proceedings on the reinsurance issue. View "Appeal of the Local Government Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants Leisure Life Industries a/k/a Leisure Life Industries, Inc. a/k/a Leisure Life Industries, LLC (Leisure Life) and Knothe Apparel Group, Inc. appealed a superior court order that denied their motion for summary judgment and granted the cross-motion for entry of final judgment on the issue of indemnity filed by plaintiffs, JoAnne Gray, Jeffrey Gray, Jeffrey J. Gray, and Jonathan Gray. The defendants also appealed the trial court’s order denying their motion for summary judgment on successor liability. Jeffrey Gray purchased a robe from The Orvis Company (Orvis) for his wife, JoAnne. Orvis purchased the robe from the manufacturer, Leisure Life. Mrs. Gray was wearing the robe when she added a piece of firewood to her wood stove and the robe caught fire. As result, she was severely burned and suffered extensive injuries. Plaintiffs sued the defendants and Orvis along with other parties involved either in the design and distribution of the robe or the manufacture and sale of the wood stove. Leisure Life argued that it was not liable for the plaintiffs" injuries because it was no longer the same entity that manufactured the robe, and the circumstances of the purchase did not support holding Knothe liable as a successor. The trial court denied the motion. Orvis claimed that it "had no involvement in the design and manufacturing of the robe" and that it "was simply a 'pass-through' entity." As a result, Orvis sought indemnity or contribution from the defendants for any damages it ultimately owed to the plaintiffs, including the amount of any judgment against, or settlement by, Orvis. Immediately prior to the scheduled start of the trial, all parties except Leisure Life settled with the plaintiffs. The parties involved in the sale and manufacture of the wood stove settled the claims against them for five million dollars. Orvis settled the claims against it for one million dollars and assigned to the plaintiffs "any and all rights to indemnity" that Orvis had against the defendants. The settlement did not extinguish the plaintiffs' claims against the defendants. The plaintiffs, as Orvis's assignees, subsequently moved for summary judgment against the defendants on the indemnity claim. On appeal, the defendants argue that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs on the issue of indemnity. They further contend that there is no basis for the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees and costs and that, therefore, the award must be set aside. Finally, the defendants argue that the trial court erred in finding Knothe liable as a successor to Leisure Life. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded plaintiffs' indemnity claim failed because when Orvis settled with the plaintiffs, it extinguished its own liability, but not that of the defendants. The trial court's order addressing the settlement stated that "[t]his case has been settled as to all defendants except Leisure Life Industries." In consideration for the receipt of one million dollars and the assignment of Orvis's indemnity rights against the defendants, the plaintiffs released Orvis from all claims of liability asserted against it. In contrast, there was no release of liability running to the defendants, and the defendants remained potentially liable to the plaintiffs under the theories of direct liability asserted against them, including the strict liability claim. The Court reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment with respect to the plaintiffs’ indemnity claim. View "Gray v. Leisure Life Industries " on Justia Law

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Petitioner Thomas Phillips appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) decision denying him recovery under the Workers’ Compensation Law. The CAB ruled that petitioner was not entitled to benefits because he had failed to timely notify his employers, Norman and Diane Crocker, of his claim. Furthermore, the CAB ruled that petitioner was not entitled to benefits because, unbeknownst to the Crockers, he was intoxicated at the time of his injury. In 2006, petitioner and his wife lived in a trailer that they rented from the Crockers. As part of the lease agreement, the petitioner performed yard work and minor home repairs for the Crockers in exchange for a rent reduction. Mr. Crocker asked petitioner to remove a tree branch that was growing near the Crockers’ house. The next day, petitioner fell from a ladder while cutting the branch with a chainsaw. As a result of the fall, petitioner was rendered a quadriplegic. Petitioner filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, identifying the Crockers as his employer. The Crockers were insured under a homeowner’s insurance policy issued by State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (State Farm) that included workers’ compensation coverage for domestic employees. State Farm denied petitioner workers’ compensation benefits. The New Hampshire Department of Labor (DOL) Hearing Officer determined that petitioner was entitled to benefits. State Farm appealed to the CAB. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings: (1) the CAB misapplied the governing New Hampshire case law to the petitioner’s claim; (2) petitioner’s claim was not time barred; and (3) a factual question remained whether petitioner's injury was caused in whole or in part by his intoxication. View "Appeal of Thomas Phillips" on Justia Law

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Respondent Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company appealed a superior court order that found Petitioner Great American Dining, Inc (GAD) was an additional insured under a Philadelphia policy. The dispute arose from a slip-and-fall injury in 2008 whereby the injured party sued DW Ray Commons, LLC, who owned and leased a building to Webster Place Center, Inc. DW Ray required Webster Place to obtain an insurance policy listing DW Ray as an additional insured. The commercial general liability policy contained a provision listing as an additional insured "any person or organization with respect to their liability arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use o that part of the premises leased or rented…" When DW Ray and Webster Place were sued for damages and settled with the injured party. That party then sued GAD for contribution on the theory that GAD constructed, installed and maintained the premises under the policy. GAD then sought a declaration that it too was an additional party under the DW Ray policy. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed GAD was an additional party and upheld the superior court's judgment. View "Great American Dining, Inc. v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company " on Justia Law

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Defendants Robert Christy, Christy & Tessier, P.A., Debra Johnson, and Kathy Tremblay, appealed a superior court decision that rescinded a professional liability policy issued by Plaintiff Great American Insurance Company (GAIC), to the law firm of Christy & Tessier, P.A. Robert Christy (Christy) and Thomas Tessier (Tessier) were partners in the firm, practicing together for over forty-five years. In 1987, Frederick Jakobiec, M.D. (Jakobiec) retained Tessier to draft a will for him. In 2001, Jakobiec's mother, Beatrice Jakobiec (Beatrice), died intestate. Her two heirs were Jakobiec and his brother, Thaddeus Jakobiec (Thaddeus). Jakobiec asked Tessier, who was Beatrice's nephew, to handle the probate administration for his mother's estate. From 2002 through 2005, Tessier created false affidavits and powers of attorney, which he used to gain unauthorized access to estate accounts and assets belonging to Jakobiec and Thaddeus. Litigation ensued; two months after Tessier and Jakobiec entered into the settlement agreement, Christy executed a renewal application for professional liability coverage on behalf of the law firm. Question 6(a) on the renewal application asked: "After inquiry, is any lawyer aware of any claim, incident, act, error or omission in the last year that could result in a professional liability claim against any attorney of the Firm or a predecessor firm?" Christy's answer on behalf of the firm was "No." The trial court found that Christy's negative answer to the question in the renewal application was false "since Tessier at least knew of Dr. Jakobiec's claim against him in 2006." On appeal, the defendants argued that rescission was improper because: (1) Christy's answer to question 6(a) on the renewal application was objectively true; (2) rescission of the policy or denial of coverage would be substantially unfair to Christy and the other innocent insureds who neither knew nor could have known of Tessier's fraud; and (3) the alleged misrepresentation was made on a renewal application as opposed to an initial policy application. GAIC argued that rescission as to all insureds is the sole appropriate remedy given the material misrepresentations in the law firm's renewal application. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred as a matter of law in ruling that Tessier's knowledge is imputed to Christy and the other defendants thereby voiding the policy ab initio. The Court made no ruling, however, as to whether any of the defendants' conduct would result in non-coverage under the policy and remanded for further proceedings. View "Great American Insurance Company v. Christy" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment proceeding, the defendant, Citizens Insurance Company of America, appealed a superior court order which ruled in favor of the plaintiff, The Barking Dog, Ltd., which operates a dog kennel and grooming business at several locations in New Hampshire. The court ruled that an insurance policy issued by the defendant provided coverage for damage to the plaintiff’s septic system and ordered the defendant to pay the plaintiff $20,000, the agreed upon damage amount. The court also ruled that the defendant was not prejudiced by the plaintiff’s failure to disclose its expert’s report in a timely manner or its failure to disclose its expert’s curriculum vitae and, accordingly, permitted the plaintiff’s expert to testify at trial. The defendant argued that both rulings were error. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "The Barking Dog, Ltd. v. Citizens Insurance Company of America" on Justia Law

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Respondent Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company appealed a superior court order that denied its motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioner Rebecca Rivera. The court ruled that an automobile policy (policy) issued to Rivera’s parents excluded liability coverage but afforded uninsured motorist coverage for injuries Rivera sustained in a single-vehicle accident in Dracut, Massachusetts. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in Petitioner's favor: "the terms of the owned vehicle exclusion appear to remove [Petitioner's vehicle] from the definition of uninsured motor vehicle even though, as to Rivera, there [was] no insurance available. While Liberty Mutual is free to limit the extent of its liability through the use of an exclusion it cannot do so in contravention of statutory provisions or public policy."

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Plaintiffs Marc and Laurie Brown appealed a superior court order that granted summary judgment to Defendant Concord Group Insurance Company in their insurance coverage action. In 2005, Plaintiffs purchased a house from then-owner Michael Rogers. Two years later, they discovered water leaking into the house near a sliding glass door. They contacted Eugene Spencer, the person who built the house, to repair the problem. In 2009, Plaintiffs again observed water leaking into the house near the same sliding glass door. This time they contacted Daniel Lewis to repair the problem. Lewis later testified that damage was caused by leaks Spencer did not discover during his repair, but probably would have discovered had he removed all of the siding on the wall. The damage required extensive repair work. Concord Group insured Spencer. His policy did not cover "property damage" to his work "arising out of [his work] or any part of [his work]." Plaintiffs argued that the policy provided coverage because Spencer negligently repaired their house in 2007, and the damage in 2009 would not have occurred but for his negligence. Upon review of the policy in question, the Supreme Court concluded it was error for the trial court to grant Concord Group summary judgment because what caused the damage (either the 2003 or the 2007 work) was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the policy provided coverage in this case. The case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.