Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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I&W, Inc. owned a mining operation in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Excavation on its property created a cavern, which grew so large it infringed upon the subsurface property of the nearby Circle S Feed Store, LLC. This cavern, in turn, caused subsidence and damages to Circle S’s surface property. A New Mexico state court found I&W negligent and liable for damages its solution mining operations caused to Circle S’s property. I&W sought indemnification for the damages under its commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policies, which had been issued by Mid-Continent Casualty Company. Mid-Continent, in turn, sought a declaratory judgment in federal court that it was not required to indemnify I&W for damages awarded in the state court action. The district court granted summary judgment for Mid-Continent, holding that a provision of the policies’ Oil Industries Limitation Endorsement (Oil Endorsement) excluded coverage of the damages awarded in state court. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit agreed that the Oil Endorsement excluded coverage under the excess/umbrella policies issued to I&W, but held the Endorsement did not affect coverage under the primary policies. View "Mid-Continent Casualty Co. v. Circle S. Feed Store, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Higby Crane Service, LLC (Higby) entered into a Contract with Defendant DCP Midstream, LP that covered crane work to be done at the gas processing plant of DCP's wholly owned subsidiary National Helium, LLC (collectively, "DCP"). A fire negligently started by DCP damaged Higby's crane. The other Plaintiff, National Interstate Insurance Co. had issued Higby a commercial inland marine (CIM) policy covering direct physical loss to certain property. National paid Higby under the policy, and Plaintiffs then sued DCP for the loss. DCP counterclaimed that Higby had breached the contract by failing to obtain a commercial general liability (CGL) policy that would have indemnified DCP for its negligence and therefore Higby should bear the loss from the damage to the crane. The United States District Court for the District of Kansas granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs, and DCP appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings to determine whether the required CGL policy would have protected DCP from liability. View "National Interstate Insurance, et al v. National Helium, et al" on Justia Law

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Alan Christoffersen drove a truck for United Parcel Service (UPS) until he was struck and killed by an underinsured motorist. After the accident, Christoffersen's heirs sued UPS and its automobile insurer (Liberty Mutual Insurance Group), asserting claims for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits. All parties moved for summary judgment. The district court granted UPS's motion on the ground that Utah's Worker's Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy. On the claim against Liberty Mutual, the court granted judgment to the heirs for $10,000. The heirs and Liberty Mutual appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that Liberty Mutual did not incur liability because UPS validly rejected UIM coverage; therefore, with regard to the claim against Liberty Mutual, the Court reversed the judgment of $10,000 for the heirs and remanded the case with instructions to grant summary judgment to Liberty Mutual on the entire claim. Furthermore, the Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to UPS because it was not considered a "self insurer" for purposes of Utah's UIM statute. View "Christoffersen v. United Parcel Service, et al" on Justia Law

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A bank purchased insurance on a commercial property mortgaged to it by a borrower. The policy prohibited an assignment "of this Policy" without the insurer's consent. After the property was damaged, the bank assigned its loss claim to the borrower. The insurer refused to pay the borrower's claim because of the nonassignment provision, and the borrower sued. The district court held that the suit was barred and awarded judgment for the insurer. The issue before the Tenth Circuit in this case centered on whether the nonassignment provision was enforceable. The Court concluded, after review of the provision in question, that the provision did not apply to the assignment of a postloss claim, so the Court did not determine the enforceability of a provision prohibiting such assignments. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "City Center West v. American Modern Home Insurance" on Justia Law

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In November 2004, Dr. Ashard Yousuf sued Dr. George Cohlmia and Cardiovascular Surgical Specialists Corporation (CVSS) in Oklahoma state court for defamation, tortious interference with business relations/contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress/outrage, negligence, and breach of contract. Dr. Yousuf alleged that Dr. Cohlmia made a series of false statements to local media disparaging Dr. Yousuf's professional reputation. Dr. Cohlmia denied that the statements he made were false. CVSS held a professional liability policy with Physicians Liability Insurance Company (PLICO) and two identical general commercial liability policies with American National Property and Casualty Company (ANPAC, one for each business location), each of which covered Dr. Cohlmia as an additional insured. Dr. Cohlmia demanded that both insurers provide for his defense, pursuant to their respective policies. PLICO agreed to defend the lawsuit under a reservation of rights and requested ANPAC to share in the defense. ANPAC refused, contending its policy did not cover the alleged wrongdoing and that it owed no duty to defend. ANPAC further claimed that even if it erred in refusing to defend Dr. Cohlmia, PLICO had no right to indemnification or contribution for the defense costs it incurred. ANPAC appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of PLICO in a dispute regarding ANPAC's breach of its duty to defend a co-insured. PLICO cross-appealed the district court's denial of its motion for prejudgment interest. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. View "Yousuf v. Cohlmia" on Justia Law

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Appellants are five farmers who planted corn on newly broken, non-irrigated acreage in Baca County, Colorado, in the spring of 2008. Appellee Federal Crop Insurance Corporation denied federal crop insurance coverage for corn that Appellants planted, determining that coverage should have been denied because Appellants failed to follow good farming practices by planting on this newly broken land without first allowing a fallow period. After they each received an unfavorable good farming practices determination, Appellants filed suit, arguing the agency acted arbitrarily or capriciously in denying federal crop insurance coverage. Finding that the agency did not act arbitrarily or capriciously, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court and agency's decision. View "Jagers v. Federal Crop Insurance Corp" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Court in this matter concerned interpretation of an errors-and-omissions policy. The policy excluded coverage for claims "arising out of" bankruptcy or insolvency. The dispute grew from a stop-loss policy issued by United Re to a company that had hired Plaintiff-Appellee C.L. Frates as a broker. After the policy was issued, United filed for bankruptcy protection. When Frates learned of the bankruptcy, it learned that United had been sued in Ohio, and filed for bankruptcy to stall the litigation. Ultimately, Frates recommended to its client that it move the stop-loss insurance to another insurer. The client agreed. However, Frates had to reimburse the client for what it lost through higher deductibles. Frates then sued Westchester Fire Insurance Company under its errors-and-omissions policy. In cross-motions for summary judgment, Westchester contended that Frates's claim "arose out of" United's bankruptcy or insolvency. Frates contended that the claim "arose out of" United's deception. The district court agreed with Frates and granted its motion for summary judgment. The Tenth Circuit disagreed with the district court. It held that a reasonable trier of fact could have concluded that Frates's claim arose out of United's bankruptcy or insolvency. Accordingly the Court reversed the award of summary judgment to Frates. View "CL Frates v. Westchester Fire" on Justia Law

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The Federal Depository Insurance Corporation (FDIC), acting as receiver of the New Frontier Bank, used proceeds from the sale of cattle belonging to a limited liability company (LLC) to pay down a loan of one of the two LLC members. According to the complaint, the FDIC had no authority to do so because the payment was contrary to the members' agreement. Ignoring the separate entity status of an LLC, the other LLC member brought suit in its own name against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for what it claimed to be the FDIC's wrongful disbursement of the proceeds. The LLC sued the government under the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause. The district judge dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim. The Tenth Circuit agreed dismissal was appropriate, the Appellate Court concluded dismissal should have been for lack of jurisdiction as to the member's claims and as to the LLC's claim because the United States Court of Federal Claims had exclusive jurisdiction. View "ECCO Plains, LLC., et al v. United States" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court recognized a new tort called "malicious abuse of process," which subsumed causes of action for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. Nanodetex Corporation and two of its principals (the Insureds) were successfully sued for malicious abuse of process. They then sought indemnification from Carolina CasualtyInsurance Company, which covered the Insureds under a management liability policy (the Carolina Policy). Carolina denied the claim, relying on an exclusion in the policy for losses arising from claims for "malicious prosecution." It sought a declaratory judgment that it was not liable for the damages arising from the malicious-abuse-of-process judgment. On Carolina's motion for summary judgment, the district court agreed with Carolina and also rejected the Insureds' counterclaims. The Insureds appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the declaratory judgment, holding that the term "malicious prosecution" in the exclusion does not encompass all claims of malicious abuse of process, but only claims whose elements are essentially those of the common-law cause of action for malicious prosecution. Because the judgment against the Insureds in the tort case was affirmed on appeal on a claim that was not substantially the same as common-law malicious prosecution, the exclusion in the Carolina Policy did not apply. View "Carolina Casualty Insurance v. Nanodetex Corporation, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Cynthia Pfeifer filed suit against Defendant-Appellee Federal Express Corporation in the District of Kansas, alleging that the company fired her in retaliation for receiving workers' compensation benefits. Plaintiff filed suit fifteen months following the termination within the applicable state statute of limitations, but outside the limit of six months enumerated in her employment agreement. The district court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the contract clause was reasonable and was not a violation of public policy. Because no Kansas law appeared to control the outcome of the case, the Tenth Circuit certified two questions to the Kansas Supreme Court regarding the ability of parties to shorten the applicable statute of limitations by contract, and if not, then was the six-month limitation unreasonable in this case? The Kansas Court responded that the contract clause in question here did violate public policy. Because of that answer, the Court did not respond to the Tenth Circuit's second question. In light of these answers, the federal district court was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Pfeifer v. Federal Express Corporation" on Justia Law