Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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North Star Mutual Insurance appealed a declaratory judgment holding that a commercial general liability policy it issued to Jayme Ackerman, doing business as Ackerman Homes, provided coverage for Ackerman’s potential liability arising from an accident involving Kyle Lantz, and that North Star has a duty to defend Ackerman. North Star argued the district court erred in finding coverage because the policy excluded accidents arising out of the use of an automobile. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Star Mutual Insurance v. Ackerman, et al." on Justia Law

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Bad Habit Trucking LLC owned a 1996 Peterbilt truck. Great West Casualty Company insured the truck. Dusty Weinreis, a member of Bad Habit Trucking LLC, took the truck to Butler Machinery Company for service work. The truck was destroyed by fire after the service work was completed but before Weinreis paid for the services. Great West paid Bad Habit Trucking $85,000 for the loss of the truck in accordance with the insurance policy. In November 2017 Butler sued Weinreis in small claims court for the unpaid service work. Weinreis counterclaimed in small claims court for the statutory maximum, $15,000, alleging loss of use of the truck, lost profits, cost to repair and replace the truck, and loss of personal property. Prior to the small claims hearing Butler moved to dismiss the case without prejudice. Weinreis resisted the motion, and a small claims hearing took place in 2018. The court awarded Butler $8,041.57 for the unpaid service work and awarded Weinreis $15,000 for lost profits. Offsetting the recoveries resulted in a net award to Weinreis of $6,958.43. In June 2018 Great West sued Butler in district court for $81,753.32 for the loss of the truck plus interest and costs. Butler moved to dismiss under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing the case was fully decided in small claims court when Weinreis sued Butler for loss of the truck. The district court granted Butler’s motion to dismiss because the issue stemmed from the same transaction or occurrence, and found Great West should have filed a claim for damages in the small claims action. Great West moved to reconsider on the basis that Weinreis was the defendant in the small claims action, not Great West or Bad Habit Trucking. Great West argued privity did not exist between Weinreis in his personal capacity and Great West as the insurance company for Bad Habit Trucking. The district court denied the motion to reconsider. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court erred in dismissing Great West's claim, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Great West Casualty Company v. Butler Machinery Company" on Justia Law

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Keith Steffes, Kelly Steffes and Tasha (Rohrbach) Steffes appealed a district court order granting Nodak Mutual Insurance Company’s motion for a new trial. The Steffeses argued the district court abused its discretion in vacating the judgment and granting Nodak’s motion for a new trial. The North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal because the order granting a new trial was not then reviewable. View "Nodak Mutual Insurance Company v. Steffes, et al." on Justia Law

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Javonne Hunt appealed a district court order requiring him to pay $27,501.86 in restitution to Blue Cross Blue Shield (“BCBS”). In 2017, Hunt was playing basketball at the YMCA in Bismarck, North Dakota when he was involved in an altercation with an opposing player. Hunt intentionally struck the opposing player in the jaw causing a bone fracture. Hunt was charged and subsequently found guilty by a jury of aggravated assault. Following his conviction, Hunt agreed to pay as restitution the out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred by the injured individual in the amount of $3,233.07. BCBS provided evidence that it had paid an additional $27,501.86 for the medical treatment of the injured individual under the injured individual’s policy of insurance. The district court applied N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-08(1) in granting restitution to BCBS and ordered Hunt to pay a total of $30,734.93; $3,233.07 for the conceded out-of-pocket costs plus the $27,501.86 claimed by BCBS. Hunt argued BCBS is precluded from recovery of its expenditures in the criminal proceedings because the definition of “victim” under N.D. Const. art. I, section 25 was incompatible with a recovery by a corporation under the criminal restitution statute, N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-08(1). The North Dakota Supreme Court found no reversible error in the district court’s judgment and affirmed the order. View "North Dakota v. Hunt" on Justia Law