Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part three orders issued by two separate judges presiding over two separate but related cases in the circuit court, holding that remand was required.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err in denying Praetorian Insurance Company's motion to intervene in Plaintiff's wrongful death action against its insured, Air Cargo Carriers, LLC for lack of standing to assert Air Cargo's right to workers' compensation immunity; (2) erred in denying Praetorian's motion for summary judgment as to count one of its declaratory judgment complaint; and (3) correctly dismissed count two of Praetorian's declaratory judgment complaint on the grounds that Praetorian lacked standing. View "Praetorian Insurance Co. v. Chau" on Justia Law

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Respondent Myra Windham was seriously injured while driving a rental car that was considered a temporary substitute vehicle under her State Farm policy. In this declaratory judgment action instituted by Petitioner State Farm, the issue this case presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court's determination was whether Windham could stack her underinsured motorist ("UIM") coverage pursuant to section 38-77-160 of the South Carolina Code. The circuit court agreed with State Farm that stacking was prohibited, and the court of appeals reversed. Because both parties offered reasonable interpretations of the policy language, the Supreme Court found an ambiguity existed, which it construed against the drafter. Accordingly, the Court agreed with the court of appeals that Windham could stack, and affirmed as modified. View "State Farm v. Windham" on Justia Law

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Bliss Sequoia Insurance and Risk Advisors held an insurance policy from Allied Property and Casualty Insurance (Allied Property) covering any liability that Bliss Sequoia might incur for “damages because of ‘bodily injury.’” One of Bliss Sequoia’s clients was a water park, and after a park guest was injured, the park sued Bliss Sequoia for professional negligence, alleging that the coverage limits on the park’s liability insurance were too low. This appeal presents the question whether that negligence claim arose “because of” the guest’s “bodily injury” and is therefore covered by Bliss Sequoia’s policy. We agree with the district court that the answer is no.   The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Allied Property. Allied’s policy provided that it covered any sums Bliss Sequoia was “legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage.’” Bliss Sequoia alleged that the bodily injury at issue was a “but-for” cause of Bliss Sequoia’s professional-negligence liability. The panel held that pure but-for causation would result in infinite liability for all wrongful acts, and therefore, the law almost never employs that standard without limiting it in some way. The law cuts off remote chains of causation by applying common law principles of proximate causation. Further, the personal-injury lawsuit against the water park arose “because of bodily injury,” but the claims of professional negligence did not. Because Bliss Sequoia’s policy did not cover those claims, Allied had no duty to defend or indemnify Bliss Sequoia against them. View "BLISS SEQUOIA INSURANCE, ET AL V. ALLIED PROPERTY & CASUALTY INS" on Justia Law

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Olson and Zdroik sustained injuries while volunteering at municipal fireworks displays in 2018. Fireworks distributed by Spielbauer Fireworks exploded prematurely at both events, severely burning the two. Both towns used teams of volunteers to operate their Fourth of July displays. Olson opened and closed a bin from which other volunteers retrieved fireworks during the Rib Lake show. Zdroik worked at the Land O’Lakes event as a “shooter,” manually lighting the fuses on mortar shells.Spielbauer’s insurer, T.H.E. Insurance, contested coverage under Spielbauer’s general and excess liability policies, which stated: This policy shall NOT provide coverage of any kind ... for any claims arising out of injuries or death to shooters or their assistants hired to perform fireworks displays or any other persons assisting or aiding in the display of fireworks whether or not any of the foregoing are employed by the Named Insured, any shooter or any assistant. The issue was whether the exclusion extends to all volunteers or only to those assisting hired shooters or hired assistants.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in favor of T.H.E. Insurance. The Shooters Endorsement plainly and unambiguously excludes from coverage hired shooters and their hired assistants and “any other persons” who assist the fireworks display, regardless of whether they assist hired persons. View "T.H.E. Insurance Co. v. Olson" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Javier Vasquez and his employer, Matosantos International Corporation (MIC), appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) determination that it could not order respondent, The Hartford Insurance Company, to pay workers’ compensation benefits to Vasquez. The CAB concluded that the Department of Labor (DOL), and therefore the CAB, lacked jurisdiction under the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Law to interpret the workers’ compensation insurance policy that MIC had purchased from The Hartford. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the CAB did have jurisdiction to consider and resolve the coverage dispute between MIC and The Hartford, it vacated the CAB’s decision and remanded for its consideration, in the first instance, of whether the policy purchased by MIC covered Vasquez when he was injured while working in New Hampshire. View "Appeal of Vasquez" on Justia Law

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Jimi Redman shot and killed Lynn Harrison with a rifle while both were in their vehicles at a stoplight. Immediately before the shooting, Redman, who was driving a Ford Escape, approached Harrison's GMC in the lane to her right. A witness, who was directly behind Harrison in the left lane, saw Redman make hand gestures and blow kisses toward Harrison. There is no evidence that Harrison attempted to evade Redman or that she even saw his gestures. Instead, as the two vehicles stopped at the red light, Redman pulled out a rifle and fired one shot which traveled through Harrison's passenger side window, killing her. Redman subsequently sped away, while Harrison's vehicle, which was still in drive, crept forward until coming to rest in the median. Redman was arrested a few blocks away. The issue this case presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court's review was whether uninsured or underinsured benefits could be recovered when an individual was shot and killed by another motorist as both cars were stopped at a traffic light. In deciding this question, the Court revisited and attempted to clarify conflicting jurisprudence as to whether such injuries arise out of the "ownership, maintenance, or use" of an automobile. To this, the Court held that gunshot injuries do not arise out of the use of an automobile. Therefore, it reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the judgment of the circuit court. View "Progressive Direct v. Groves" on Justia Law

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In July 2017, Jeremy Thornhill said that he had injured his back while working. He sought workers’ compensation benefits from his employer, Walker-Hill and its insurance carrier, Zurich American Insurance Company of Illinois (collectively, Employer/Carrier), but the Employer/Carrier denied that Thornhill had sustained a compensable injury. Ultimately, the parties agreed to compromise and settled pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 71-3-29 (Rev. 2021). Thornhill submitted the settlement to the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission for approval. After examining the application, the Commission approved the settlement and dismissed Thornhill’s case with prejudice. Pursuant to the settlement, Thornhill signed a general release,” which reserved his right to pursue a bad faith claim. Believing he had exhausted his administrative remedies, Thornhill filed a bad faith suit against the Employer/Carrier. The Employer/Carrier moved to dismiss, arguing that Thornhill had not exhausted administrative remedies—and that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction—because the Commission never made a factual finding that he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court granted the motion on that basis. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that Thornhill indeed exhausted his administrative remedies and that the circuit court had jurisdiction to hear his bad faith claim. Finding no reversible error in the appellate court’s decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Thornhill v. Walker-Hill Environmental, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff's son died in a single-vehicle collision. At the time, he was intoxicated and driving the wrong way on a one-way road. The accidental death and dismemberment insurance policy obtained from defendant Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA) by the plaintiff via his employer paid benefits for a “Covered Accident,” defined as “[a] sudden, unforeseeable, external event that results, directly and independently of all other causes.”Applying the Padfield test, Padfield v. AIG Life Ins. Co., 290 F.3d 1121 (9th Cir. 2002), the son’s death was an “accident” because, while the facts demonstrated that the son engaged in reckless conduct, the record did not show that his death was “substantially certain” to result from that conduct. Thus, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding. View "SCOTT WOLF V. INS. CO. OF N. AMERICA" on Justia Law

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The relevant consolidated appeals constitute the latest chapter of a long-running legal battle over attempts to satisfy a 2010 default judgment of $318 million under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2333, against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC) for murder and kidnapping.   In the first appeal (Case No. 20-11736), Appellant appealed the district court’s orders directing certain garnishees to liquidate and/or distribute their assets to Plaintiffs who obtained the $318 million judgment. In the second appeal(Case No. 20-12467) Appellant appealed the denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the sale of real property located at 325 Leucadendra Drive in Coral Gables, Florida. In the third appeal(Case No. 20-12545) Appellant’s wife appealed the district court’s denial of her motion to intervene in the proceedings concerning the sale of real property located at 325 Leucadendra Drive (and owned by Leucadendra 325, one of the Appellants in Case Nos. 20-11736 and 20-12467).   In Case No. 20-11736, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that a jury must decide whether Appellant and his companies qualify as agencies or instrumentalities of the FARC such that their assets can be garnished by Plaintiffs to satisfy their $318 million judgment. The court, therefore, reversed and remanded that appeal. In Case No. 20-12467, the court dismissed the appeal as moot because 325 Leucadendra has been sold and the court lacks the ability to grant the requested relief. In Case No. 20- 12545, the court affirmed the district court’s order denying Appellant’s wife’s motion to intervene as untimely and therefore dismiss the appeal. View "Keith Stansell, et al v. UBS Financial Services, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on an exclusionary clause in a commercial general liability insurance policy issued by Admiral Insurance Company (Admiral) to Richfield Window Coverings, LLC (Richfield). Richfield sold window coverage products, including blinds, to national retailers like Home Depot and provided retailers with machines to cut the blinds to meet the specifications of the retailers’ customers. Colleen Lorito, an employee of a Home Depot located in Nassau County, was injured while operating the blind cutting machine. She and her husband filed a civil action against Richfield, asserting claims for product liability, breach of warranty, and loss of spousal services. Admiral denied any obligation to defend or indemnify, asserting the claims were not covered under the policy based on the Designated New York Counties Exclusion of the insurance policy. Richfield filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to compel Admiral to defend it in the Lorito case and, if necessary, indemnify it against any monetary damages awarded to the plaintiffs. The Law Division granted summary judgment in favor of Admiral. The Appellate Division reversed, finding that “Richfield’s limited activities and operations have no causal relationship to the causes of action or allegations.” The Supreme Court found that the policy’s broad and unambiguous language made clear that a causal relationship was not required in order for the exclusionary clause to apply; rather, any claim “in any way connected with” the insured’s operations or activities in a county identified in the exclusionary clause was not covered under the policy. Richfield’s operations in an excluded county were alleged to be connected with the injuries for which recovery was sought, so the exclusion applied. Admiral had no duty to defend a claim that it is not contractually obligated to indemnify. View "Norman International, Inc. v. Admiral Insurance Company " on Justia Law