Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
Hagen v. N.D. Insurance Reserve Fund
Lance Hagen filed a public records request related to a condemnation case he was a party to involving the City of Lincoln and North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund (“NDIRF”). Hagen sought to determine how the City of Lincoln and NDIRF spent approximately $1.1 million dollars on litigation costs defending the action. NDIRF did not produce all requested records, and the parties sought relief from the district court. Hagen appealed the district court’s judgment that concluded certain documents belonging to NDIRF were exempt from release under the potential liability exception outlined in N.D.C.C. § 44-04-19.1(8). Hagen argued the court abused its discretion by finding NDIRF itself faced potential liability because its members could face potential liability, and because the court discussed the fiscal effect of a disclosure on NDIRF, which Hagen argued exceeded the scope of the North Dakota Supreme Court’s remand order in Hagen v. North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund, 971 N.W.2d 833. Because the Supreme Court concluded the potential liability exception under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-19.1(8) did not apply to any of the documents determined by the district court to be exempt, the Court reversed. View "Hagen v. N.D. Insurance Reserve Fund" on Justia Law
Nodak Ins. Co. v. Farm Family Casualty Ins. Co., et al.
Farm Family Casualty Insurance Company (“Farm Family”) appealed after the district court granted summary judgment to Nodak Insurance Company (“Nodak”) and denied, in part, summary judgment to Farm Family. This case arose from an April 6, 2019 motor vehicle accident. Samuel Hamilton was the son of Bruce and Diana Hamilton. At the time of the April 2019 accident at issue, Samuel was a resident of North Dakota, and his parents were residents of Montana. Before the accident, Farm Family issued an automobile insurance policy to Bruce and Diana with an effective policy period of October 19, 2018 to April 19, 2019. The policy insured a 2011 pickup truck. After moving to Montana, the Hamiltons obtained an insurance policy from Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (“Mountain West”) that also insured the 2011 pickup truck with a term running from December 2, 2018 to June 2, 2019. In April 2019, Samuel was driving the insured 2011 pickup truck in Williams County, North Dakota. Samuel reportedly ran a stop sign while intoxicated and struck another vehicle; H.W. was seriously injured and A.M. was killed. Nodak insured the vehicle H.W. and A M. occupied at the time of the accident. Nodak filed suit seeking a declaration Farm Family’s automobile policy was in effect at the time of the April 2019 accident, Farm Family’s policy could not be retroactively cancelled, and the vehicle driven by the insureds’ son was not an “underinsured motor vehicle” under North Dakota law. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the automobile policy Farm Family issued to its insureds had not “ceased” under the policy language and remained in effect at the time of the April 2019 motor vehicle accident. View "Nodak Ins. Co. v. Farm Family Casualty Ins. Co., et al." on Justia Law
Secura Supreme Ins. Co., et al. v. Differding, et al.
Secura Supreme Insurance Company appealed a judgment ordering Secura to indemnify Scott Differding for damages awarded against him in a tort case. The district court, deciding cross motions for summary judgment, held Secura’s policy did not insure Differding. The court nonetheless held Secura had to indemnify Differding under theories of waiver and estoppel because it assumed his defense in the tort case without reserving the right to deny coverage. The North Dakota Supreme Court held Differding could not invoke waiver and estoppel to create personal coverage under an insurance policy to which he was not a party and had no right to enforce. The district court’s judgment was therefore reversed. View "Secura Supreme Ins. Co., et al. v. Differding, et al." 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
Hagen v. North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund
North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund (“NDIRF”) appealed a judgment and orders granting Lance Hagen’s amended petition for a writ of mandamus requiring NDIRF to disclose documents under the open records law. NDIRF argued: (1) the amended petition was untimely; (2) NDIRF was not a public entity subject to open records requests; and (3) the documents sought were protected from disclosure under North Dakota court rules. Hagen cross appealed, arguing the district court erred by not requiring NDIRF to disclose all of the documents he sought and by denying him costs and attorney’s fees. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed in part, concluding the amended petition was timely, NDIRF was a public entity for purposes of the open records law, and the records sought were not exempt from disclosure. The Court reversed the part of the judgment and orders excluding records from disclosure, and remanded to the district court to review in camera those previously excluded records and those records identified in Appellant’s Brief to determine whether they were exempt from disclosure under the potential liability exception in N.D.C.C. 44-04-19.1(8). The Court affirmed the denial of costs and attorney’s fees. View "Hagen v. North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund" on Justia Law
Pavlicek v. American Steel Systems, Inc., et al.
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company appealed a district court judgment ordering it to pay Larry Pavlicek $214,045.55 under a commercial general liability insurance (CGL) policy Grinnell had with JRC Construction. Grinnell argued the district court misinterpreted the insurance policy, and that it was not required to indemnify JRC Construction because its work product was defective. In 2013, Pavlicek hired a contractor to construct a steel building on his property. JRC Construction installed the concrete floor and floor drain for the project. Another subcontractor installed the in-floor heating system for the concrete floor. After JRC completed the floor drain, it failed to properly install the concrete floor, and its attempts to repair the concrete damaged the drain. Pavlicek sued JRC for breach of contract relating to the defective work. In February 2020, Pavlicek filed a supplemental complaint against Grinnell, alleging it was required to satisfy the judgment as JRC’s insurer. Grinnell claimed it had no obligation to indemnify JRC under the CGL policy. The district court concluded JRC’s defective work on the concrete floor was not covered under the CGL policy, but damage to the floor drain was covered. Because removal and replacement of the floor and in-floor heat were necessary to repair the drain the court concluded the CGL policy covered all of those costs. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that although the CGL policy provided coverage to repair the floor drain, it did not cover the cost of replacing the concrete floor because that damage was the result of JRC’s defective work. The district court erred in finding the CGL policy covered the entire concrete floor replacement because replacement of the floor was the only way to repair the floor drain. Further, the Supreme Court found the district court erred in concluding the CGL policy provided coverage for replacement or repair of the in-floor heating system beyond that which may be necessary to repair the drain. View "Pavlicek v. American Steel Systems, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Ryberg, et al. v. Landsiedel
Jason Ryberg appealed the dismissal of his complaint with prejudice after the district court granted Defendant Darren Landsiedel’s motion to enforce a settlement agreement. Nodak Insurance Company (“Nodak”) appealed the court’s order denying its motion to intervene in the case. In November 2016, Ryberg’s wife, Heather Ryberg, was killed when Landsiedel’s vehicle hit her on a rural Burleigh County highway in the early morning hours. In March 2018, Ryberg sued Landsiedel for the wrongful death of his wife. Landsiedel was insured by Allstate Insurance Company and had liability policy limits of $25,000. Ryberg was insured by Nodak, with “substantial” underinsured motorist (“UIM”) limits. Allstate offered Ryberg policy limits to settle his wrongful death claim. Ryberg notified Nodak of Allstate’s offer of the policy limits for “full and final settlement” of the wrongful death claim. Nodak agreed to advance payment of $25,000 to Ryberg to maintain its reimbursement or subrogation rights under N.D.C.C. 26.1-40-15.5. A week before the scheduled trial on Ryberg’s wrongful death action against Landsiedel, Nodak and Ryberg agreed to settle Ryberg’s UIM claim for $100,000, in addition to the $25,000 Nodak already paid under the statute. After being notified, Landsiedel’s counsel filed a notice of settlement with the district court, and the case was taken off the calendar. Because no closing documents were filed, the court set a status conference for February 27, 2020. On the day of the status conference, Nodak moved to intervene in the action, seeking to preserve its right of reimbursement or subrogation. Landsiedel filed a substitution of counsel, moved for an extension of time, and subsequently opposed the motion to intervene. The court denied Nodak’s motion to intervene, finding it was untimely. In June 2020, Landsiedel filed a motion to enforce a settlement agreement. Ryberg opposed the motion and requested oral argument. The district court granted Landsiedel’s motion. Judgment was entered dismissing the case with prejudice. The North Dakota Supreme Court found no evidence established the terms by which the parties intended to settle Ryberg’s action, thus, the district court erred in granting Landsiedel’s motion seeking to enforce a settlement agreement. The Court vacated the order denying intervention and reversed the judgment of dismissal. View "Ryberg, et al. v. Landsiedel" on Justia Law
Pioneer State Mutual Insurance Co. v. Bear Creek Gravel, et al.
Pioneer State Mutual Insurance Company appealed a declaratory judgment that found the automobile policy issued by Pioneer to Ty Kirby provided insurance coverage. In 2017, Kirby was involved in a motor vehicle accident with Mary Miller. Kirby was driving a 2002 Dodge Ram owned by his employer, Bear Creek Gravel, Inc. One of Kirby’s co-workers had forgotten his lunch and Kirby instructed him to meet him at the intersection of two nearby highways where Kirby would bring him a sandwich. After purchasing the sandwich, filling the 2002 Dodge Ram with fuel, and delivering the sandwich to his co-worker, Kirby began crossing the intersection. Kirby proceeded through the intersection and collided with Miller, who died as a result of the collision. Kirby purchased an automobile insurance policy from Pioneer effective from April 1, 2017 to October 1, 2017. The policy covered Kirby even if he was driving a vehicle he did not own. However, the policy excluded coverage for any vehicle “furnished or available for [Kirby’s] regular use.” The regular use exclusion was the basis for Pioneer’s denial of liability coverage for the accident. The district court concluded the 2002 Dodge Ram was not furnished for Kirby’s regular use because several restrictions existed for Kirby’s use of the vehicle. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded evidence and inferences about restrictions on Kirby's use of the vehicle supported the district court's decision the regular use exclusion did not apply. Therefore, the district court's judgment was affirmed. View "Pioneer State Mutual Insurance Co. v. Bear Creek Gravel, et al." on Justia Law
WSI v. Cherokee Services Group, et al.
Cherokee Services Group, LLC; Cherokee Nation Government Solutions, LLC; Cherokee Medical Services, LLC; Cherokee Nation Technologies, LLC (collectively referred to as the “Cherokee Entities”); Steven Bilby; and Hudson Insurance Company (“Hudson Insurance”) appealed district court orders and a judgment reversing an administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) order. The ALJ’s order concluded the Cherokee Entities and Bilby were protected by tribal sovereign immunity and Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) had no authority to issue a cease and desist order to Hudson Insurance. The district court reversed the ALJ’s determination. The Cherokee Entities were wholly owned by the Cherokee Nation; Bilby served as executive general manager of the Cherokee Entities. Hudson Insurance provided worldwide workers’ compensation coverage to Cherokee Nation, and the Cherokee Entities were named insureds on the policy. WSI initiated an administrative proceeding against the Cherokee Entities, Bilby, and Hudson Insurance. WSI determined the Cherokee Entities were employers subject to North Dakota’s workers’ compensation laws and were liable for unpaid workers’ compensation premiums. WSI also ruled that Bilby, as executive general manager, was personally liable for unpaid premiums. WSI ordered the Cherokee Entities to pay the unpaid premiums, and ordered Hudson Insurance to cease and desist from writing workers’ compensation coverage in North Dakota. The Cherokee Nation had no sovereign land in North Dakota, and the Cherokee Entities were operating within the state but not on any tribal lands. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the district court judgment, and reinstated and affirmed the ALJ’s order related to the cease and desist power of WSI, but the matter was remanded to the ALJ for further proceedings on the issue of sovereign immunity. View "WSI v. Cherokee Services Group, et al." on Justia Law
Dellinger v. Wolf, et al.
Kinsale Insurance Company appealed a district court’s partial summary judgment determining Kinsale had a duty to defend QEP Energy Company (“QEP”). QEP moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing the partial summary judgment was not appealable. Kinsale responded, asserting the Declaratory Judgment Act provided a statutory basis for the appeal. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Declaratory Judgment Act did not provide a statutory basis for the appeal, and therefore dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Dellinger v. Wolf, et al." on Justia Law