Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
Westfield Insurance Co. v. Sistersville Tank Works, Inc.
The Supreme Court concluded that under the continuous-trigger theory, when an insurance claim is made by alleging a progressive injury caused by chemical exposure or other analogous toxic, injurious substance, damages that are caused, continuous, or progressively deteriorating throughout successive policy periods are covered by all the occurrence-based policies in effect during those periods.This case involved claims against a standardized commercial general liability (CGL) policy alleging that long-term exposure to chemicals caused a disease to develop over a number of years before being diagnosed. The exposure to the chemicals and the development of the disease, however, happened across numerous CGL policy periods. Insurer denied coverage under its CGL policies and filed a complaint for declaratory relief. The district court granted a judgment in favor of Insured, finding that Insurer owed Insured a duty to defend and indemnify under all of its policies. The Supreme Court answered a certified question that, under the continuous-trigger theory, when a claim is made alleging a progressive injury caused by chemical exposure or other analogous harm, every occurrence-based policy in effect from the initial exposure, through the latency and development period and up to the manifestation of the bodily illness, is triggered and must cover the claim. View "Westfield Insurance Co. v. Sistersville Tank Works, Inc." on Justia Law
War Memorial Hospital v. W. Va. Health Care Authority
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the rules of the West Virginia Health Care Authority (WVHCA) denying War Memorial Hospital, Inc.'s (Hospital) certificate of need exemption application that would have allowed Hospital to acquire and utilize a fixed magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) scanner at its medical office building, holding that the circuit court erred.The WVHCA denied the Hospital's exemption application on the grounds that the MRI device would not be used in the Hospital's facility but, rather, that the Hospital intended to place the MRI device in a building in another country that was owned by the Hospital's parent corporation. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there is no location-specific requirement in W. Va. Code 16-2D-11(c)(27) that the MRI the Hospital sought to acquire be utilized at its "primary hospital location." View "War Memorial Hospital v. W. Va. Health Care Authority" on Justia Law
Federal Insurance Co. v. Neice
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that that an insurance policy's "Employer's Liability" exclusion (ELE) was inapplicable to Plaintiff's wrongful death action against Defendant, holding that the circuit court erred.Jeremy Neice was killed in Pennsylvania while working in an underground coal mine owned by Dana Mining Company of Pennsylvania, LLC. The circuit court concluded that Federal Insurance Company owed Dana Mining defense and indemnity pursuant to a liability insurance policy under which Dana Mining was a named assured and that the policy's ELE was inapplicable to the wrongful death action brought by Jenny Neice, the administrator of Jeremy's estate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Pennsylvania courts would adhere to the majority rule in their interpretation and application of the ELE at issue, finding that it barred coverage for Dana Mining as to Plaintiff's claims. View "Federal Insurance Co. v. Neice" on Justia Law
Praetorian Insurance Co. v. Chau
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
Ball v. United Financial Casualty Co.
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
McDowell v. Allstate Vehicle & Property Insurance Co.
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
State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Nathaniel Realty, LLC
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
Auto Club Property Casualty Insurance Co. v. Moser
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
Progressive Max Insurance Co. v. Brehm
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
Donahue v. Mammoth Restoration & Cleaning
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