Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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The Supreme Court granted writs of prohibition and mandamus to prevent Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge John O'Donnell from exercising jurisdiction over a civil action that was transferred from the Lyndhurst Municipal Court but denied the writ of mandamus ordering Lyndhurst Municipal Court Judge Dominic Coletta to dismiss the case upon its return from the common pleas court.Plaintiff filed a complaint against State Farm Mutual Insurance Company in the small claims division of the Lyndhurst Municipal Court. Judge Coletta granted Plaintiff's subsequent motion to transfer the case to Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, where it was assigned to Judge O'Donnell. State Farm filed a motion to return the case to the municipal court, but Judge O'Donnell denied the motion. State Farm then brought this action. The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition to prevent Judge O'Donnell from hearing the case in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and granted a peremptory writ of mandamus ordering Judge O'Donnell to return the matter to the Lyndhurst Municipal Court, holding the peremptory writ was appropriate. View "State ex rel. State Farm Mutual Insurance Co. v. O'Donnell" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Insurer, holding that specific language in the insurance policy was sufficient to warn Insured that misstatements as to warranties in her application for the policy rendered the policy void ab initio.Insurer submitted an application to Insured indicating that she was the only member of her household, and the application was incorporated into the policy under the policy's terms. Insured's, sister, however, was living with Insured when the sister struck a pedestrian while driving the car covered under the policy. Insured filed a complaint for declaratory judgment claiming that because of Insured's misstatements, the policy was void ab initio. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment to Insurer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the misstatement regarding the warranty in the application for the insurance policy rendered the policy void ab initio. View "Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Pusser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted a state-law question certified to it by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division and answered that an insured is not permitted to seek full and complete indemnity under a single policy providing coverage for "those sums" that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay because of property damage that takes place during the policy period when the property damage occurred over multiple policy periods.Insured sued Insurer seeking an order requiring Insurer to pay all defense costs incurred in defending the underlying lawsuit and the amounts Insured paid to settle the action. Insurer filed a counterclaim seeking a declaration that Insured was not entitled to allocate all defense costs and indemnity to a single policy period when multiple policies and corresponding policy periods were triggered. At issue was whether contract language providing coverage for "those sums" should be treated like contract language providing coverage for "all sums." The Supreme Court answered the question of state law as set forth above but cautioned against using the answer as a blanket rule applicable to all policies with "those sums" language. View "Lubrizol Advanced Materials, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this action determining whether an insurer who settles a personal injury claim with an accident victim has a duty to distribute a portion of the settlement proceeds to the victim's former lawyers pursuant to a charging lien, holding that an action based upon a charging lien is an in rem proceeding against a particular fund and that when a matter is resolved through a settlement, the fund comes into being at the time the settlement is paid and the release is received.A discharged law firm sought to enforce a charging lien against a tortfeasor's insurer for the law firm's representation of the victim injured by the tortfeasor. However, no lawsuit was filed on behalf of the victim against the tortfeasor, and the victim settled with the tortfeasor's insurer after he discharged the law firm. The Supreme Court held that, under the facts of this case, the discharged law firm could not enforce its charging lien against the tortfeasor's insurer, and therefore, the discharged law firm did not have a viable charging-lien claim against the tortfeasor's insurer. View "Kisling, Nestico & Redick, LLC v. Progressive Max Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a certified question from the Unitde States District Court by holding that Ohio Rev. Code 4123.35(O) is not unconstitutional as applied to the tort claims of an enrolled subcontractor’s employee who is injured while working on a self-insured construction project and whose injury is compensable under Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws.Daniel Stolz was injured while working as a concrete finisher for Jostin Construction. Jostin was a subcontractor of Messer Construction Company, the general contractor for the project. Under section 4123.35(O), Messer provided workers’ compensation coverage on the project for employees of subcontractors like Jostin that chose to enroll in Messer’s self-insurance plan. Stolz eventually sued Messer and several subcontractors for negligence. Messer and three enrolled subcontractors argued that they were immune from liability under section 4123.35(O). The Supreme Court concluded that the statute provides immunity to both general contractors and enrolled subcontractors from tort claims brought by employees of other enrolled subcontractors. Stolz later amended his complaint to allege that section 4123.35(O) is unconstitutional. The enrolled subcontractors petitioned the district court to certify a question of state law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that section 4123.35(O) does not violate the Ohio Constitution’s right-to-remedy, right-to-jury, or equal-protection provisions. View "Stolz v. J & B Steel Erectors, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a general contractor’s commercial general liability (CGL) policy that is nearly identical to the one considered in Westfield Insurance Co. v. Custom Agri Systems, Inc., 979 N.E.2d 269 (Ohio 2012), covers claims for property damage caused by a subcontractor’s faulty work.The Supreme Court resolved the issue by applying the holding of Custom Agri which provides that property damage caused by a subcontractor’s faulty work is not an “occurrence” under a CGL policy because it cannot be deemed fortuitous. The Court then reversed the judgment of the court of appeals, which reversed the trial court’s conclusion that the insurer in this case had no duty to defend the CGL policy owner, a general contractor. The Supreme Court held that the insurer was not required to defend the insured against suit by the property owner or indemnify the insured against any damage caused by the insured’s contractor. View "Ohio Northern University v. Charles Construction Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Scott and Dawn Smith (together, Insureds) filed an insurance claim with Erie Insurance Company (Insurer) seeking uninsured-motorist coverage as a result of injuries suffered by Scott in a no-contact accident allegedly caused by an unidentified vehicle. Insurer denied the claim. The trial court granted summary judgment to Insurer, concluding that a provision in the policy requiring Insureds to provide “independent corroborative evidence” that the unknown driver caused the injury meant that Insureds had to submit evidence, independent of Scott’s own testimony, corroborating that the accident was caused by an unknown motorist, and this they failed to do. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the policy’s requirement of independent corroborative evidence could be met using evidence derived from the insured’s testimony. View "Smith v. Erie Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued World Harvest Church (WHC) for claims arising from an incident involving Plaintiffs’ two-year-old son, who attended WHC’s daycare. Plaintiffs alleged that WHC’s employee had beaten their son with a knife. Final judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiffs in the amount of $2.87 million. The court of appeals affirmed. WHC subsequently filed suit against Grange Mutual Casualty Company, which insured WHC under a commercial liability insurance policy and an umbrella policy and had defended the matter but reserved its right to deny coverage. Plaintiffs alleged that Grange improperly refused to indemnify it for any portion of the judgment awarded to Plaintiffs. The trial court entered judgment in favor of WHC, finding that Grange was obligated to indemnify WHC in the amount of $1.47 million but that Grange was not responsible to indemnify WHC for the punitive damages awarded to Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the abuse or molestation exclusion in the commercial liability insurance policy barred coverage for an award of damages based on WHC’s vicarious liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from WHC’s employee’s abuse of Plaintiff’s son while in WHC’s care and custody; and (2) the policy did not provide coverage for an award of attorney fees and postjudgment interest. View "World Harvest Church v. Grange Mut. Cas. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Appellees damaged their vehicle when they collided with a deer in the roadway. Appellant insured the vehicle. Appellees had their vehicle repaired using aftermarket replacement parts that were not produced by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Appellant, however, refused to pay for OEM parts after providing an estimate that was based on the use of non-OEM parts. Appellees filed a complaint alleging eight causes of action related to Appellant’s estimate and its refusal to pay for OEM parts. The trial court granted summary judgment to Appellees on their claim that Appellant violated the Consumer Sales Practices Act by failing to obtain one of Appellees’ signatures on the bottom of the estimate, and Appellees voluntarily dismissed the remainder of their claims. The trial court awarded Appellees actual damages, statutory treble damages, attorney fees, and expenses. The court of appeals modified and affirmed the trial court’s award of damages. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals and dismissed the cause, holding that Appellant’s provision of a repair estimate to Appellees was not in connection with a consumer transaction and, therefore, was not an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 1345.02. View "Dillon v. Farmers Ins. of Columbus, Inc." on Justia Law