Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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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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The Supreme Court answered a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concerning the amount of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage, if any, that Insurer must provide to a non-employee permissive user of an insured vehicle who caused personal injuries to an employee of a named insured under a standard commercial automobile insurance policy.The Fourth Circuit determined that an employee indemnification and employer's liability's exclusion in the policy at issue was void and unenforceable under the mandatory omnibus requirements of W. Va. Code 33-6-31(a). The Supreme Court answered (1) the void exclusion may not be invoked to limit the amount of coverage available to a permissive user of a vehicle insured by Insurer's policy; and (2) Insurer must afford the permissive user with liability coverage up to the full limits available under the insurance policy for any proven damages. View "Ball v. United Financial Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company's decision to rescind an insurance policy purchased for a derelict house Homeowner intended to remodel, holding that questions of material fact existed precluding summary judgment.After a fire occurred, damaging the house and some of its contents, Allstate announced that it was rescinding the homeowners' insurance policy issued to Homeowner, asserting that Homeowner digitally signed an application in which he falsely answered a request as to whether he would occupy the house within thirty days. Plaintiffs, including Homeowner, sued Allstate for breach of contract and unfair trade practices. The circuit court granted Allstate's motion to rescind the policy, concluding that there was no factual dispute that Homeowner had made false statements on his insurance application. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that questions of material fact existed regarding whether Plaintiff's answer to Allstate's thirty-day-occupancy question was false and whether the question was material to Allstate's issuance of the policy. View "McDowell v. Allstate Vehicle & Property Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting Respondents' motion for partial summary judgment in this insurance dispute, holding that the circuit court's order failed to set forth factual findings sufficient to permit meaningful appellate review.State Farm Fire and Casualty Company appealed the circuit court's partial summary judgment, arguing that the circuit court erred in finding coverage for a bat infestation under a rental dwelling policy it issued to Respondents. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this action to the circuit court for further development, holding that the circuit court's order was not adequately set forth, leaving the Court unable to determine whether Respondents' motion for partial summary judgment was correctly granted. View "State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Nathaniel Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the circuit court granting partial summary judgment to Insured, denying summary judgment to Insurer, and awarding Insured her attorney's fees, holding that there was no error.At issue in this case was the "medical payments coverage" provision in Insured's automobile insurance contract that required that Insurer reimburse Insured for any medical expenses she "incurred" in an accident. The circuit court concluded that the contract obligated Insurer to reimburse Insured the full amount of Insured's medical bill she received after an automobile accident and further concluded that Insurer was required to reimburse Insured for her attorney's fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the circuit court's interpretation of the medical payments provision in the insurance contract; and (2) there was no error in the circuit court's rulings on costs and attorney's fees. View "Auto Club Property Casualty Insurance Co. v. Moser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs - Christine Brehm and Amber Hess - in these suits for declarations of coverage against Progressive Max Insurance Company, holding that the circuit court erred in its grant of summary judgment.Plaintiffs were passengers in a Toyota Camry, a rental vehicle operated by Susan Bindernagel, when another driver crashed into the Camry. Bindernagel's insurer, Progressive, denied underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage because the rental vehicle was not a "covered auto" under the policy. The circuit court found that because Plaintiffs had been Bindernagel's guest passengers in the rental car when the crash occurred they were entitled to UIM coverage. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that neither the clear statutory language nor the terms of the insurance policy specifically provided for UIM coverage to those in Plaintiffs' position. View "Progressive Max Insurance Co. v. Brehm" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court enforcing a settlement agreement between Petitioner and his insurer, Respondent Allstate Company, and denying Petitioner's request to amend his complaint or allow the filing of a new complaint, holding that there was no error.The settlement agreement at issue related to water damages occurring at Petitioner's real property. Petitioner failed to execute and return the agreement, after which Respondent filed a motion to enforce settlement. Petitioner then filed a motion to amend the complaint or, in the alternative, allow the filing of a new complaint. The circuit court granted Respondent's motion to enforce the settlement and denied Petitioner's motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err as to any of its challenged rulings. View "Donahue v. Mammoth Restoration & Cleaning" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition sought by West Virginia Mutual Insurance Company (Mutual) from the order of the circuit court denying Mutual's motion for summary judgment on common law bad faith claims brought by Michael Covelli, M.D., holding that Mutual demonstrated that the writ of prohibition was appropriate.A jury awarded Dominique Adkins almost $5.8 million on her medical malpractice claim against Dr. Covelli, which was above the limits of his medical malpractice insurance. However, Mutual, Covelli's insurer, settled Adkins's suit within policy limits before the circuit court reduced the verdict to judgment. When a second patient of Dr. Covelli learned of Adkins's large jury award, that patient too sued Dr. Covelli for malpractice. Mutual also settled that claim within policy limits. Thereafter, Dr. Covellie sued Mutual for common law bad faith. At issue was the order of the circuit court denying Mutual's motion for summary judgment on Dr. Covelli's claims. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that the circuit court clearly erred by denying Mutual's motion for summary judgment. View "State ex rel. W. Va. Mutual Insurance Co. v. Honorable Salango" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held in this case that the circuit court had the power to enter an order precluding a party to a West Virginia lawsuit from instituting or prosecuting collateral litigation in a sister state.This lawsuit was brought by a pharmaceutical distributor against the insurance companies that provided it with liability insurance. At issue on appeal was the West Virginia circuit court's "anti-suit injunction" prohibiting the insurance companies from pursuing parallel litigation against the distributor in California. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court clearly had the authority to enter an anti-suit injunction; but (2) an anti-suit injunction was not narrowly tailored to protect the court's authority while respecting the sister state court, necessitating remand. View "St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co. v. AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of Mutual Benefit Group and against Eric Parks in this action brought by Mutual Benefit as a result of an automobile accident, holding that the circuit court erred.Mutual Benefit brought this action to recover monies it paid in another action stemming from an automobile accident involving Parks. The magistrate court found in favor of Mutual Benefit. After a trial de novo, the circuit court granted judgment as a matter of law to Mutual Benefit on the grounds that Parks had failed to respond to requests for admissions that Mutual Benefit had served upon him in the magistrate court. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure for Magistrate Courts provide the exclusive means of discovery in magistrate courts and do not provide for parties to serve requests for admission. View "Parks v. Mutual Benefit Group" on Justia Law